Ever since becoming the Prime Minister in May 2014, Narendra Modi faced recurring ridicule from opposition parties and the intelligentsia for not speaking on a number of sensitive issues — be it alleged rising intolerance, attacks by cow vigilantes, JNU incident, beef controversy or attacks on Dalits or Pakistan policy. Some questioned where was his “56-inch” chest that he had famously thumped during 2014 General Election campaign, some wondered if all the promises of bringing back black money were just election “jumlas”.
Scores of critics even compared Modi with ex-PM Manmohan Singh, who remained infamous for not taking a stand on important issues throughout his 10-year tenure, and dubbed him as “Maun Modi”.
But come August 2016, as if by design, PM Modi started taking on sensitive issues, one by one — and changed the entire political narrative in the next few months, leaving the opposition scurrying for a suitable strategy to attack the government. It all started on August 6 when Modi surprised everyone by launching an unprecedented attack on cow vigilantes.
Speaking at the first of its kind Tawn Hall by an Indian politician, Modi, said, “Some people have set up their shops in the name of ‘gaurakhsa’”. He also asked the state governments to prepare dossiers to find out the real identities of the vigilantes. In the following days, Modi attacked those committing atrocities against Dalits. Not only this, Modi responded to critics questioning his Pakistan strategy by taking the attack back to Pakistan as Kashmir burnt in the worst unrest in decades.
In the following days, Modi attacked those committing atrocities against Dalits. Not only this, Modi responded to critics questioning his Pakistan strategy by taking the attack back to Pakistan as Kashmir burnt in the worst unrest in decades.
Modi raised the atrocities carried out by Pakistan in Balochistan region from the ramparts of Red Fort in August. This marked a landmark shift in India’s policy towards Pakistan. But the neighbouring country didn’t take it lightly as terror incidents mounted in Kashmir, the biggest being in Uri when 20 soldiers were killed in the wee hours on September 18 by Pakistani terrorists. The attack provided the opposition with a much-needed ammunition to berate Modi government as “jumla sarkar”. However, what Modi government did later leave the opposition confused, and sometimes even struggling for a proper strategy.
The government allowed Indian Army to carry out first of its kind ‘surgical strikes’ on terror camps operating from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on September 29. The surgical strikes not only sent Pakistan a strong message, it exposed the Indian opposition like never before when some of them started questioning the veracity of surgical strikes carried out of the Army.
Surgical strikes and diplomatic offensive against Pakistan raised Modi’s stocks. But he had saved the best for the last. His best, however, came as a shock not just for the opposition but the country as well.
On November 8 at 8.00pm, Modi announced the decision to demonetise all old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes that amounted to around 86% of the total currency in circulation in the country.
Demonetisation forced the entire country to stand in serpentine queues at banks and ATMs. Though the opposition left no stone unturned to attack Modi for the shock decision, the overwhelming mood in the country remained in favour of the move that Modi sold to people as the biggest attack against black money and corruption.
A government taking on the opposition systematically is probably unprecedented in India. In the years preceding Modi, the government was under constant attack from the opposition. Not anymore.
The government has an edge as of now as whatever it does appears to have been scripted much in advance. It is time for the opposition parties to get their politics right.