Telescope: Not achhe din

... for the government. Or former cricketers turned commentators.

Written by Shailaja Bajpai | Updated: December 22, 2016 3:50 am

Soon after noon on Wednesday, came the 60th demonetisation modification — or is it Modi-fication — when Monday’s Rs 5,000 deposit rule by the “Reverse Bank of India” as the Congress called it, was rolled back. And lest you believe the “Govt u-turn” was “after massive public pressure” (CNN News 18), think again: “RBI u-turn after Times Now expose”; “India Today impact: Roll back post India Today report”. Really

A “massive public backlash” (NDTV 24×7) and embarrassing tweets by the likes of Yogendra Yadav on the reasons they had not deposited above Rs 5,000 cash earlier may be more reasonable explanations for the central bank’s retreat.

On TV news, we see two narratives on demonetisation. The first and more effective television one has been tracking “cashless”, “less cash” — as BJP spokespersons call it — public distress. Most Hindi news channels prefer this angle. On Monday, ABP took a “Cashless Yatra” by train to cities like Gwalior and Jaipur and found that platform tea, autorickshaws, bangles, etc, required cash not cards. Aaj Tak, News 24, APN had similar reports. India News visited housewives in their kitchens (Delhi, Mumbai) and found empty shelves and plenty of “tension”. On Tuesday, a critical ABP revised BJP’s 2014 slogan: “Ab ki baar, 59 palti sarkar”— poor planning, it added. The second line of attack — perhaps to deflect direct criticism of the government’s “flip-flops”— has been on the banks, including the RBI. Aaj Tak/India Today conducted “Operation Black Banker” on Tuesday, India TV fingered black money agents at banks and RBI officers under investigation for hanky-panky business.

Either way, it’s not a comforting picture for the government, especially when a channel like Times Now reported, “1 deposit 20 questions”, termed the RBI’s retreat, “the biggest climbdown yet” and asked is this a “loss of face for the government?”And it’s beginning to show. On Monday’s Left Right & Centre (NDTV 24×7), BJP’s Sambit Patra lit into anchor Nidhi Razdan accusing her of being “agitated”, a compliment she returned when he became “agitated” by her questions on rule changes.

The prime minister’s speeches in Kanpur (Monday) and to his BJP parliamentary colleagues (Friday) were impassioned but edgy — of course, he is a great orator so he carried the day, but only just. Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi has also been speaking on notebandi in all his speeches. In Monday’s Jaunpur address soon after the PM, every other sentence of his began or ended with “Narendra Modi ji”. Where Modi is all fire and brimstone, arms flung open, Rahul uses his fingers, long pauses and constant readjustments of the microphones to punctuate his points. Quite a contrast.

On a happier note, watched India win the Junior Hockey World Championship and beat England at cricket in Chennai. The commentary during Test matches is one big superlative: “Magnificent win” “outstanding achievement”, “absolutely brilliant” (Jadeja fielding), “brilliant bowling” (Amit Mishra’s googly dismissing Dawson). “Top class team”, “top class captain” and a “top class point” on BCCI’s woes at a time when India is playing so “brilliantly”, dominated CNN News 18’s discussion on Tuesday.

The Hindi commentary was no less euphoric: Kapil Dev distinguished himself by his choice of words to describe the play: “bahut badhiya ball, bahut badhiya shot, bahut badhiya bowling, bahut badhiya fielding”. A variation on the theme? “Lajawaab shot”. The same cannot be said for the commentary.

As for predictions of expert former cricketers, well. (Star Sports) Sunil Gavaskar thought a Kohi declaration with a 100-run lead would be “perfect”; Ravi Shastri said India would give themselves approximately 15 overs bowling at England on Monday while Kapil hedged his bets: Maybe a 200-run lead and a few overs on Monday, or then India would bat for 10 overs Tuesday — all were “out” LBW. Sanjay Manjrekar said Kohli should not take the new ball Monday but he did and Umesh Yadav got a wicket.

Have to say, it’s not been a “badhiya” week for the government or our former cricketers.

shailaja.bajpai@expressindia.com

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