In 2014 Prime Minister Modi was able to get for his party a first clear majority in the Lok Sabha in a quarter century on the strength of a mere 31 per cent of the vote.Ordinary people voted or him in large numbers in the hope that he would be the answer to their prayers. Many believe their hopes have been belied.

The downside of demonetisation

Events such as “surgical strike” and “demonetisation” have produced no dividend for the people. Go ask the farmers. Anand K Sahay, senior journalist and analyst writes: “Ask the workers, in agriculture and in cities. Ask the businessman and the industrialist — big or small. But most of all, ask the unemployed, whose lines have grown, not shortened”.

Sapan Dasgupta, visiting professor of economics, Ashoka University, writes that demonetisation exercise has produced adverse side effects for the entire economy, involving matters quite unrelated to the policy goals. It has certainly led to an economic slowdown mainly on account of a fall in demand for commodities caused by the severe scarcity of currency. The government has been trying to remonetize by issuing new currency, but on account of inadequate infrastructural facilities, the process is turning out to be painfully slow. As a result, markets too may take a while to recover. And slow market revival has undesirable implications for employment, both in the formal and informal sectors.

To address corruption as well as the currency shortage problem, the government began to advocate digital transactions simultaneously with a push towards universal banking. How soon digital banking can spread across the country, including in remote rural areas, is still unclear. Quite apart from the poor penetration of mobile connectivity and the internet beyond metropolitan areas, questions have been raised about the very ability of a major section of the population, both rural and urban, to turn tech-savvy at short notice. Many are still reluctant to part company with cash, whether lacking in education or not. However, even those who are willing to rely primarily on digital transactions are not finding it easy to do so.

Sahay makes another important point – that feedback from BJP and the RSS is also not very positive for Modi. “The Modi “fatigue” has spread.The PM’s colleagues are getting tired of having to lower their gaze if they must speak in Cabinet meetings. Some throw up their hands in despair. Everyone is hoping that BJP president Amit Shah, fetched to the scene by Mr Modi to manage the party for him but no one’s favourite, goes back to Gujarat. But deliverance can only come from a certain kind of result in UP. The BJP’s first rung is praying for deliverance. The second rung too. Ditto the farmers and the workers……A good result for them may brighten their mood. But the country will take time to recover….”