The Big Story: Working as islands

Since the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 9, India has undergone severe hardships. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked citizens to bear with the inconvenience for 50 days. That deadline comes up on December 28, but the situation is still far from normal. Queues outside banks and Automatic Teller Machines have not shortened, rural markets have slumped and economists believe the cash crunch could lead to a general economic slowdown in the medium-term.

The demonetisation exposed the inefficiency of the Modi government. Rather than putting in place a clear plan to implement a policy decision that has affected India’s 1.2 billion people, the Union Finance Ministry and the Reserve Bank of India created confusion by changing the rules related to the exchange of currency notes and cash withdrawal almost every other day.

But politically, Modi has had it easy. The blunder of demonetisation was tailor-made for the Opposition to pin the government down by tapping popular discontent. But instead of focusing on the Centre’s inefficiencies and the travails of millions of people who have been hurt by the note swap, the opposition parties have been busy playing the game of political one-upmanship among themselves.

On Monday, the Congress’s call for an all-Opposition meeting on Tuesday failed to impress the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Party general secretary Sitaram Yechury made a distinction between coordinating inside Parliament and outside. He also indicated that the Congress may not have consulted others enough before deciding on the meeting, a charge repeated by the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Janata Dal (United) and the Nationalist Congress Party, all of whom are expected to keep away from the meet.

They seem to be playing tit-for-tat. On December 16, the final day ofa winter session that had seen the Opposition effectively stall Parliament as they protested demonetisation, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi broke ranks to hold a sudden meeting with Narendra Modi. This took other Opposition parties by surprise. Gandhi held his meeting just when government was slowly being pushed on the back foot on demonetisation, with even the Bharatiya Janata Party’s own allies like Telugu Desam Party begining to criticise the Centre for poor implementation of the policy. Gandhi’s meeting with Modi weakened the pressure and allowed the government to project itself as one open to reconciliation and discussion, though it had actually done all it could to avoid a debate on demonetisation inside Parliament.

The feeble Opposition has emboldened the government to steam ahead with its poorly-planned policies. By failing to forge a common strategy, the parties that do not belong to the ruling National Democratic Alliance are failing India. After all, the Opposition has the duty to represent the voice of the people in the corridors of power. In a situation where millions have their livelihoods battered, the public good should take precedence over petty politics.

The Big Scroll: on the day’s big story

Abishek Dey talks to families of soldiers who were affected by demonetisation.

Why Rahul Gandhi’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 16 was a self goal.


  1. In the Indian Express, Rajmohan Gandhi stresses on the importance of debate and conversation for democracy. 
  2. In The Hindu, G Sampath bats for repealing the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, which he says was tool to intimidate civil society. 
  3. In the New York Times, Daid Paul Kuhn says bigotry alone was not the reason white America voted Donald Trump. 
  4. How could startups tap the rural market in India? The big ones like Amazon may provide an answer, says Anjana Menon in the Economic Times.


Don’t miss

Juhi Chaudhari on why the pollution in Varanasi, Allahabad and Lucknow could be worse than New Delhi.

“According to the WHO’s list of 20 worst polluted cities, 10 are in India. Of these, six are in north India, and four in Uttar Pradesh: Allahabad, Kanpur, Firozabad and Lucknow. Varanasi – the constituency of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and earmarked as a ‘smart city’ – is one of India’s three most polluted cities, as per the CPCB 2015 bulletin.”