oppn parties Narendra Modi At the Zenith of His Career

News Snippets

  • In reply to a question in Parliament, the government says it is empowered to lawfully intercept, monitor or decrpyt information stored in a computer resource in the interest of sovereignty or integrity of India
  • Police stop a 12-year old girl on her way to the Sabarimala shrine
  • In Karnataka, the JD(S) indicates that it might support the BJP government if it falls short of numbers after the bypolls
  • Congress pips the BJP in local body elections in Rajasthan, winning 961 wards to the BJPs 737
  • After Airtel and Vodafone-Idea, Jio also indicates that tariffs will be raised from December
  • Sources in Shiv Sena say that they might revive the alliance with the BJP if it offers the 50:50 deal
  • A miffed Sanjay Rout of the Shiv Sena says that it will take "100 births" to understand Sharad Pawar
  • Mobile operators Vodafone-Idea and Airtel decide to raise tariffs from next month
  • Sharad Pawar meets Sonia Gandhi and says more time needed for government formation in Maharashtra
  • Justice S A Bobde sworn in as the 47th Chief Justice of India
  • Supreme Court holds hotels liable for theft of vehicle from their parking area if parked by valet, says "owner's risk" clause is not a shield from such liability
  • Finance Minister says she is receiving feedback from many sectors that recovery is happening as there is lower stress
  • Sabarimala temple opens, but police bar the entry of women below 50 years
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman says Air India and BPCL to be sold off by March
  • Media person Rajat Sharma resigns as DDCA president
Two Muslim litigants in Ayodhya refuse to accept the Supreme Court order, say review petition might be filed
oppn parties
Narendra Modi At the Zenith of His Career

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
When Narendra Modi had demonetized currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1000, he had taken the biggest risk of his political career. Make no mistake; Modi is not a spontaneous politician. All his moves are calculated and planned. Demonetization was also planned. I, for one, firmly believe that the chaos that followed demonetization happened only because the fear of a leak forced Modi’s hand and he had to announce the move much before it was scheduled to be enforced. Hence, things went out of hand. ATMs were not recalibrated, not enough notes could be printed in time to replace the avalanche of deposits and the RBI resorted to frequent changes in policy as things began to go out of control.

But the main thing where Modi miscalculated in demonetization was something else. He and his group of advisors had no inkling that book assets in India were many times more than physical assets held by people. For the 15-odd lakh crore demonetized currency notes said to be floating in India, much more cash in hand was reflected in the books of accounts of individuals and business and social entities, including companies. Hence, the government’s calculation of getting back much less in deposits went awry. Almost all the demonetized currency came back in the banking system, either genuinely or through jugaad. Further, either due to the pressure of work or due to exaggerated estimates, little fake currency was detected. In that sense, little or no economic objective was achieved by the move.

But Modi had a larger political motive behind the move – that of ridding his government of the stigma of being a “suit boot ki sarkar.’’ Talk to the poor and the middle classes. They are united in their belief that the Modi government has dealt a body blow to the rich by demonetizing currency and made them stand in the same queue with the poor to get their money exchanged. The poor do not understand that the rich have many ingenious ways of converting their money. What they understand is that Modi took the effort to make them come out with their hidden wealth. They firmly believe that demonetization was just the beginning and Modi will not let the rich sleep well and stop their ‘looting’ of the country.

This image is reinforced in their minds because this government has managed to keep the corridors of power in Delhi totally corruption free. There has been not a whiff about any scam. The poor and the middle classes find it a welcome relief from the days of the Manmohan Singh government when multi-crore rupee scams happened at the drop of a hat. Just for this, the poor believe that Modi is right for the country. This is reflected in the fact that post demonetization, the BJP has done exceedingly well in all elections – civic body or state assembly.

The next big thing is that Modi has his ear to the ground and doesn’t lose time in responding to things that concern people. After winning UP and Uttarakhand and not doing as badly as projected in Goa and Manipur, in his victory speech, the Prime Minister was humble and eschewed his usual chest thumping rhetoric. He knows that the middle class is burdened with a plethora of taxes that is leaving very little purchasing power in their hands. He spoke about this and assured them that relief in on the way. The people are talking about how the government first takes income tax from their salaries and then excise, VAT, service tax and other taxes when they consume. The middle class is saying that at this rate, of every 100 rupees they earn, nearly Rs 40 goes to pay taxes and they get goods and services worth only Rs 60. As the prime minister has spoken about this, apart from the GST, one can safely say that other big reforms are under way. Taxation, banking, land, labour, political funding and election spending reforms are things that will attract his attention in the months to come.

The win in UP will give Modi a lot of breathing space, apart from having raised his stature worldwide. Modi is now seen to be the tallest leader in India – a leader who can take political risks like demonetization and get stronger public support. The Prime Minister’s jibe at Harvard (or similarly) educated critics for lambasting demonetization during a campaign rally in UP followed from his belief that the people were with him. The people of UP did not disappoint him. The win in the state will give him enough Rajya Sabha MPs to ease the pressure in the upper house.

For all those who accuse Modi of being an autocrat and not being democratic, it should be kept in mind that the government did not follow the easy way out of having a joint sitting of parliament every time it wanted to get an important bill passed. With its brute majority in Lok Sabha, it could have used this route to crush all opposition. But it did not, despite the frequent stoppages of work in Parliament due to opposition protests. With the MLAs and Rajya Sabha MPs of UP, he will also be able to have his way when the election of the next President comes up soon. Modi is presently at the zenith of his career, despite the Lutyen’s elite’s and Left-liberal media’s trenchant dislike for him. He is definitely enjoying being the first outsider to usurp the buddy-backslapping culture of political circles in Lutyen’s Delhi.