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If there were to be a report card on Narendra Modi’s performance as Prime Minister, demonetization would probably invite the maximum negative score. We still don’t know why exactly it was done. There is no official word on it. But its negative consequences are still being felt. Small businesses were suddenly left without cash and lost their means of sustenance. Real estate was hit instantly and hasn’t recovered since then. Professional economists talk of second order consequences that cannot be predicted but could emerge many years later.
Demonetization was an example of everything that we can criticize Modi about. A sweeping action taken without considering consequences; a large image building exercise that would impact an entire population; disregard for the impact on the poor and the common man; and so on.
Yet, the common people agreed to go along, at that time. They trusted that the Prime Minister had his heart in the right place and was doing something good even if he didn’t tell them the whats, hows and whys of it. Not today, though. The execution of the farm laws and the five state elections last year when Modi seemed more interested in campaigning and not addressing Covid have taken some sheen off the popular leader.
The economy has been doing poorly for many years now. It is time to revisit demonetization and see it from what we know today about Modi. It is time to ridicule it for the Thuglakian move it was.
The kids on ZEE TV were probably just acting out a piece written by adults. The producers of the show treated the skit the same way they treated others – shots of exaggerated responses from judges, laughter everywhere. Only the gullible don’t know that such shots are tacked on later in the editing room. But it is also quite possible that the Tamil audience was truly joining in. Modi has just not been able to break the ice with Tamils. They do not respect him much. They don’t have much regard for him, at least not enough to vote for him.
Modi is the chest thumping leader that Tamils don’t like. They love to sneer at male boisterousness and tall claims, such as Modi’s. Tamil leaders – men and women – play the mother. Tamil leaders get emotional and cry on stage. Even all conquering heroes like MGR were reasonable folk emphasizing moderation. They are typically benevolent mother figures, not tough fathers.
The overreaction from the center was perhaps not out of character. The BJP under Modi has been extremely sensitive about facing criticism. It has not hesitated to use government power to tamp down criticism. Raking up demonetization probably touched a raw nerve among the saffronists. And it was probably no coincidence that the trolling originated from Tamil Nadu.
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