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When “Wealth” Is A Dirty Word.


envyModi Harnessing Sentiment of Masses Against the Rich

NILANJAN MUKHOPADHYAY
“In the raging debate over government’s decision to withdraw notes of Rs500 and Rs1,000 from circulation, emphasis has been on listing pros and cons of move and whether temporary inconvenience caused to people will be neutralised by long-term gains. Consequently , the audacious crack that PM Narendra Modi has taken to recast the BJP’s core constituency coupled with his decisive step towards leaving an indelible stamp on the nation’s history , has not been dwelled on. As of now, there is no certainty that Modi’s gambit will be successful. There however is no doubt that politically, this step is possibly the biggest game-changer so far in the Modi regime, though it cannot be said whether the game will alter in favour of prime minister or against him.

For long, the BJP and its previous avatar, the Jana Sangh, was a political party of small traders. By aggressively advocating the Hindutva idea from 1990s onwards, the party secured support of dominant social communities in different states. As chief minister of Gujarat, Modi outreached select corporates. The tactic drew charges of crony capitalism but widened the party’s economic constituency . In the 2014 parliamentary elections, the BJP was also backed by several socio-economic groups, including in rural India, who had previously not rallied behind BJP . They comprised even Dalits and agricultural workers and the socio-economic coalition that propelled BJP to power, was cobbled together by mobilising people on the emotive cultural-nationalistic plank in fused with the development agenda.Yet, the primary base of the BJP remained the middle-middle classes and above. Economic groups below these sections and social communities outside the party’s traditional bases were transitory additions. Why then would Modi choose risking support of primary supporters?
Despite the wave in 2014, the BJP’s vote share remained pegged at 31% and in the past two and a half years, change, if any to this figure, is downward though diehards will issue denials. Support can increase only if it looks beyond existing class base and forges a new socio-economic coalition, more `proletarian’ in character. Modi is trying to force a tectonic alteration in its traditional constituency but has left the bulk of the party anxious at the outcome of the turn.

At mid-point of his regime, Modi had little option but to explore new avenues because policies and programmes he pursued since coming to power do not ensure political immortality . Most of his predecessors have at least a decision or two that ensure permanence in history .None of Modi’s initiative so far matches signatureslikethatof JawaharlalNehru (Five Year Plans and PSUs), Lal Bahadur Shahtri (push towards Green Revolution), Indira Gandhi (bank nationalisation and 1971 war), Rajiv Gandhi (communication revolution), PV Narasimha Rao (economic liberalisation), Atal Bihari Vajpayee (Golden Quadrangle) and Manmohan Singh (RTI and rural employment guarantee).

The decision to demonetise High Denomination Currency Notes sets the political agenda for the second half of Modi’s tenure. Just as the BJP has attempted to alter the discourse with the “surgical strikes“, the move against black money is also a political ploy. Reiteration by Modi, and backed by party leaders, that the proclaimed offensive against parallel economy will be a continuing strategy makes it evident that the offensive does not have just an economic purpose. Critics of the decision will be termed anti-nationals just as they were labelled several times over in the past.

Modi is attempting to harness the latent sentiment of masses against the rich. He hopes to capitalise on the belief among all sections that inconvenience or losses are more for those higher on the economic ladder. Modi will hope that everyone, up to a certain class of people, imagine themselves as `have-nots’ and accept hardship because it spells trouble for the `haves’. This form of egalitarianism is new to BJP in practice, though in theory , it has been propounded by Deendayal Upadhyaya.

Months before crucial assembly elections, Modi has taken a huge risk. But then, Modi has gambled in the past too.He has walked the black money talk in hope that it enables another term in 2019 and becomes his hallmark. Time will tell if he made the right call or not. ”

Wealth envy is today being well stroke by the Right, the Left and the Ambedkarites. The really wealthy won’t be affected as they have their wealth spread across the world. The more affluent middle class with assets in India are in real danger of seizures and compulsory nationalization. Take care not to fall prey to other people’s greed and envy.

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About Keerthika Singaravel
Engineer,Investor,Businessperson

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