Image courtesy BuzzFeed
(NB: This is the uncut version of an article originally published on BuzzFeed on November 7)
At 8 PM on the 8th of November 2016, the curtain rose on the greatest magic act of all time.
That evening, one man stepped onstage in front of the largest captive audience ever assembled for a performance and, in a speech spanning 2423 words that took 25:04 minutes to deliver, converted most of the currency of one of the largest economies in the world into so much worthless paper.
It was intended, he said, to usher in a Swachch economic Bharat. It was audacious in concept and ambitious in scale, even as it flew in the face of received wisdom that you cannot fool all the people all the time.
The ace mentalist Nakul Shenoy told me that a magician can, and often does, stumble during a performance. Modi’s stumble came four days into his essay in mass hypnotism when, in a November 12 speech to the NRI community in Kobe, Japan, he laughed at the hapless victims of his newest trick. “Ghar pe shaadi hai,” he smirked at one point, “lekin paisa nahin hai.” (There’s a wedding at home, but there’s no money.)
Finally, we have dates. December 9 for the first phase, and December 14, for the second phase, of the Gujarat elections.
The lead-in to the announcement had its share of controversies, the confusion being compounded by the Election Commission’s self-serving statements at various points in time. For instance, the CEC said the reason the dates for Gujarat were not announced at the same time as those for Himachal Pradesh was that flood relief work was still ongoing in the former. Not true, NDTV found when it spoke to officials on the ground.
Way back in 2013, I’d posted a small take titled ‘The Talented Mr Jaitley‘. Now read this Caravan story on malfeasance within the DDCA administration (and embedded links within it to more of the same).
Now ask yourself this: Why is it that nothing ever sticks to Jaitley’s Teflon political skin?
#1. The 1995 winter session of Parliament was among the least productive on record (constant disruptions resulted in only 36% of the total time being productive, according to Parliamentary records).
The constant stoppage of play was led by the BJP, which was protesting the continued presence in the PV Narasimha Rao cabinet of Telecom Minister Sukh Ram, against whom charges of taking a bribe and favoring HTL in the awarding of cable supply contracts had begun to surface.
The BJP kept the pressure up — until, in 1997, he broke from the Congress and founded the Himachal Vikas Congress — at which point the BJP sought and obtained his support for the Prem Kumar Dhumal-led BJP government in Himachal Pradesh. Ram joined the government — and was persuaded to quit in March 1998 when charges were finally framed against him. The story of how he finally relented is a classic case study of realpolitik.
#1. It takes just one news story to meet, and exceed, the weekend’s whatthefuckery quotient:
Over two years after Mohammed Akhlaq was beaten to death on suspicion of consuming beef, the accused in the case, all of whom are out on bail, may soon secure jobs.
Moreover, the family of Ravin Sisodia, one of the murder accused who had died in jail of multiple organ failure, is soon likely to get Rs 8 lakh compensation.
#1. Unlike Gajendra Chauhan, you cannot question Anupam Kher’s curriculum vitae and fitness to chair the FTII — which, you will remember, is where the sequence of universities in turmoil began. Whether Kher’s overt support for the ruling dispensation, as was the case with the likes of Sambit Patra, Shazia Ilmi and others, played a hand in his landing the role is a matter of conjecture. Related, a student looks back at Chauhan’s reign of error.
The big news, while I was traveling in Chennai and other parts of Tamil Nadu, is a Rohini Singh story in The Wire on the strange business dealings of Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah.
Shah Junior in his response called the article “false, derogatory and defamatory“; his lawyer had earlier responded to the website saying, essentially, that there was no wrongdoing. Shah has since filed a Rs 100 crore defamation case against the reporter and editors of the site — whenever the case is heard, I want a ringside seat.