Winds of Change?


On November 13, 2016, just five days after he shocked the country by announcing Demonetisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi wept in public addressing a rally in Goa, he broke down and said in a voice choked with emotion: "I know the forces up against me. I know they will not let me live. I know they will try to ruin me".

Nobody knows even today who he was referring to or why he seemed to think his life was in danger. The provocation for his tears is a back-story for historians to research and write about.

It is possible that he knew right then that note-bandi was a monumental blunder and he would one day have to pay the price for impoverishing a nation overnight. He must have sensed there would be a mighty backlash.
But it is noteworthy that within a few days after that bizarre breakdown, he seemed to recover his poise with a show of bravado. On November 18, ten days after Demonetisation, in a video address to the Global Citizen Festival in Mumbai, Modi tried to sound upbeat by quoting Bob Dylan who had just won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

He said that Dylan's iconic song "The times they are a-changin'" was a "transformative anthem of change". He said: "I quote from one of Dylan's transformative anthems which holds as much meaning today as it did when it was first sung in the 1960s:

'Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

"Elders must learn from these words of wisdom", the Prime Minister said, just to drive home the point, adding : "We better get out of the way as indeed the times they are a changing. My dear young friends, I'm convinced we can free Bharat of all forms of filth and that your youthful energy will make it happen".

Just over two years down the road, the energy of the people of India, both young and not-so-young, is certainly in evidence. But not in the way Modi was hoping it would be. Thirty thousand farmers marched many miles from Nagpur to Murnbai. Dalits are raising their voice of protest almost every day in virtually every part of the country, including his own home Slate of Gujarat.

Now, very recently, school children, many of them still fresh-faced teenagers, poured out into the streets of Ludhiana, Kanpur, Bhopal, Bengaluru, Guwahati, Patna, Chennai and all across the country. They were protesting against the leak of Class 10 and 12 CBSE examination papers.

The current buzz words are "leak" and "protest". Leaks are being reported regarding everything from exam papers to election dates, bank coffers to UIDAI data vaults. The protests are directed against Bharatiya Janata Party government and the Prime Minister himself. The signs of a groundswell of rage and rebellion are unmistakable.

Perhaps Modi's perception of inevitable recoil end repercussions when he cried in public on December 13, 2016 was more prophetic than many had realised at that time.

No clearer indication of the rising confidence of Congress President Rahul Gandhi. Till not so long ago, Rahul was the butt of Modi's cruelest taunts. Now the proverbial worm is turning. Roles are getting reversed. There is no telling if the loser in 2014 may well turn out to be winner in 2019.

Vol. 50, No.42, Apr 22 - 28, 2018