The year 2016 has been a tumultuous, both at home and beyond. Personality cults have grown stronger. These are indeed political times. It has always been the case, but in the context of Indian political scene, this year marks the steady rise of personalised governance over the great old democratic. And none but two wily, old, maverick political heavyweights from across the two poles of India – one, the self-proclaimed mascot of Development – Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the other his astute competitor from Bihar, Chief Minister Nitish Kumar have evolved as the champions of this game of persona.
Before one goes to unravel the complex mysteries and differences between their politics and modus operandi, it’s important to underline the similarities. Both of them are shrewd, enjoy a personality backed mass following and harbour serious political ambitions to rule the country. Both have delivered (or as they have made us believe so) within their respective states. Both ride on the wave of a majority that is often the catalyst which fashions their political thinking. Scratch their similarities a bit, and you will find a well-calculated assessment behind the recent ‘Ban Politics’ they have unleashed on the masses.
Whether it is about banning the liquor in Bihar or the case of a nationwide monetary ban of high denomination notes – both these leaders derive the logic from the pious constitutional framework of the nation. Enshrined under the Directive Principles of State Policies – banning liquor and eradicating corruption from the public domain are profound ideals that are pious and desirable. No one can deny the fact that both these issues have been afflicting our society. They demand solutions. Now here they are Nitish and Modi, right up there, with a supposedly bold and righteous solution to them. Ban the liquor and the currency notes and voila – here is the answer to the hydra-headed problems of black money and intoxication. At least, this is what they want you to believe.
Now after a blanket ban has been implemented on both fronts, and the media and its social avatars on Twitter and Facebook are done singing like canaries, it’s time to analyse them in the light of governance. In the case of Bihar, we do find at least to some level, a preplanned structure of the implementation. Undoubtedly, the ban on liquor can be seen as a step that has positively affected the population of Bihar and that has been widely evident by the media coverage. The women, who were expected to be one of the most prominent beneficiaries of the ban, have given thumbs-up to the government’s policy.
But unfortunately, the case is not the same with the BJP government and the demonetisation it has implemented. We cannot comment on the long-term goals of the ban as of now, but the poor implementation strategy has raised questions over the foresightedness of the government. Even after a month of introducing this measure, we have hardly seen any reduction in the inconveniences that the people were experiencing in the first week. The government cannot ignore the number of the deaths that have happened during this month. The schizophrenic policy paranoia after the ban, coupled with the ‘emotional’ outbursts to salvage public support in the name of glaring ‘nationalist’ ideals appears too childish and foolish. Loopholes in the government’s strategy to deal with the menace of black money are too many and too obvious to ignore. The big fishes are yet to be touched, while many of them keep on making merry riding on the ‘waive off’ bonanza dished out by the banks. Ordinary people are standing in the queues, debating, marvelling and flirting around the issues of black money, most of them completely misinformed and clueless about the historicity of such complex policy discourse. A critical analysis of the opposition and a determined political resistance is the need of the hour.
(The writer is a philanthropist and social scientist. Views expressed are strictly personal.)