“Arrogance of power and arrogance of numbers.” The previous UPA government had got used to these two sharp charges when it was in power between 2004 and 2014, until Narendra Modi sunk them electorally. During the peak of UPA II, BJP, the main opposition party in the Lok Sabha then, had correctly gauged the public angst against the Manmohan Singh government. And the perception that the Congress-led UPA dispensation had cut itself off from the ground realities proved to be correct in the 2014 elections.
In 2016, when the BJP commands a brute majority in Lok Sabha, the Modi government seems to be falling into the same trap. On Thursday, former PM Manmohan Singh highlighted the haphazard manner in which the demonetissation scheme was launched on November 8. He called this a “monumental mismanagement, plunder and loot of public money”. As a member of the Opposition, Singh, however, said he was not against the motives of the current government’s fight against black money.
But, PM Modi hit back at the Opposition today. “Some people are criticising saying the government did not make ample preparation. I think the issue is not that the government did not make ample preparation. I think the pain of such people is that the government did not give a chance to make any preparation. If these people had got 72 hours to make their preparation then they would have lavished praise that there is no one like Modi,” he charged.
Ever since the demonetisation scheme came into effect, the government has shrugged off every criticism as politically motivated, even calling these voices as anti-national and pro-black money. The recurrent theme ever since demonetisation came into effect has been clearly: “either you are with us or against us”.
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The government can’t deny the fact that it faltered in implementing the scheme. There have been a series of flip flops, as evident in the RBI’s ever changing guidelines. People have died waiting in long and serpentine queues to withdraw or exchange their money from banks and ATMs. Business has been hit hard and we are staring at a possible slowdown of the economy. Thought the PM has acknowledged the inconvenience people have faced, there seems to be no end to the misery in the near future.
No one can dispute that fact that rampant corruption has crippled our system. But in a democracy, people can, and must be able to nurture a difference of opinion. It is the life-blood of democracy. And criticism of government’s policy must not make anyone anti-national.
The current government would do well if it keeps its ears to the ground. An app survey can keep the government happy, and the cacophony on social media may give it a high for some time. But then there is another India which speaks every five years. And when a government starts functioning in the echo chamber of “we are always right”, it is clear it’s not bothered to listen to the other voice.