2016: The year that changed my politics

Rajiv Gandhi made me eligible to vote in 1995, but I did not use my vote for the next 19 years, until the Lok Sabha elections of 2014.

I voted Narendra Modi for economic growth, bigger annual increments, more disposable income. Modi had a bad rep communally, but surely, peace was a precondition to his promise of prosperity, I thought.

Criticism of Modi used to irritate me. I am no troll, but I defended him offline. When he served tea to Barack Obama, I admired his humility. I saw in it a wish to bend for the good of his country. His monogrammed suit made me uneasy but I said, ‘big deal!’

People mocked him for spending more time abroad than home, and I said he was working for the country, not holidaying. I saw virtue in his Navratra fasting at a state dinner.

I even admired him for stopping by in Pakistan to greet Nawaz Sharif. The return gift of a terrorist attack in Punjab was only an attempt to undermine his goodwill initiative, in my eyes.

When a minor — and I still say needless — controversy arose over Mallika Sarabhai’s demand that the PM condole her mother’s death, I wrote this article on Medium in favour of the PM. I was until January 2016 wholly with Modi.

A bigger controversy in JNU next month still had me siding with the government. Until, a lawmaker from Modi’s party did something that made me question my politics. I could not endorse a legislator assaulting someone on the street with impunity, for whatever reason or provocation. I did not want thug politics.

My tone changed. To me, students chanting anti-national slogans is a lesser evil than a legislator breaking the law with state backing. But my belief in Modi did not waver. I waited for him to say the right thing.

No sooner was this disturbance forgotten than Modi’s government shocked the middle class — me included — by making a bid on our provident fund. There was no way the daylight robbery could be couched in patriotic terms. They miscalculated, overreached and nearly lost all of their support. Wisely, they backtracked.

A building may survive two major quakes, but it is weakened. I cheered the government’s ‘surgical strike’ in Pakistan unquestioningly, and on November 8, 2016, when the Prime Minister announced demonetization of high-value rupee notes in a sentimental speech, I bought his story.

But after thinking it over carefully, reading the views of economists, and finally seeing the bloodless mayhem on the streets, I turned completely against demonetization. And for the first time, I also completely lost all faith in Modi.

Now when he drawls ‘mitron’ (friends), I laugh with the others. The tea, the monogrammed suit, the selfies, the long silences after every controversy, all seem cringeworthy. The trolling, the digital invasion of people’s privacy, the stoking of beef and other controversies seem pernicious. And many government decisions seem like conspiracies aimed to benefit a few.

I wanted big increments, now jobs are on the line. This is not what I voted Modi for.



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