<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>It’s been over six weeks since November 8, when the unthinkable happened. In one fell swoop, PM Modi delegitimised Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes in an audacious bid to curb black money. What has happened post that has been nothing short of chaotic. The RBI and the Finance Ministry have literally made up rules on the go, chopping up and changing one arbitrary decision after another. It has been a baptism by fire for them, trying to outdo money launderers and black money hoarders. Unfortunately, hardworking average Indians have been caught in the crossfire. The latest decision to scrutinise any deposit above Rs 5,000 (issued this Monday) has left even the most ardent supporters of demonetization baffled.The Opposition has gone hammer and tongs over PM Modi’s decision, with Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal almost indulging in a game to outdo each other by ramping up the rhetoric against the government. No one can disagree the common people have been greatly disadvantaged by currency swap and that the Opposition parties have tried their best to latch on to it. Yet, something curious seems to be happening in India’s political firmament. Across the states, the lotus continues to bloom unabated, notwithstanding the urban backlash BJP has received. The Maharashtra municipal poll results (till the third phase), by-elections in six states and the latest result from Chandigarh municipal corporation poll shows no signs of the BJP wave slowing down. If anything, it seems to have picked up after a momentary lull. What explains this dichotomy? Let’s look at some of the possible causes.PM Modi’s personal charisma‘Hum to fakir aadmi hai, jhola leke chal padenge’. To a large extent, this statement, made at a rally at Moradabad on December 3, explains Modi’s rustic charm and appeal among his core vote base. He is looked upon as an honest crusader against corruption, with no family to pass on wealth to or curry favour for. This is in stark contrast to the general dynasty-centric political norms in India, where often lineage and not ability dictates a person’s post in an organisation. The appeal of a quintessential outsider embarking on a Himalayan shake-up is too irresistible for a large section of the urban population, who had so far equated politicians with a staid pace of work and a penchant for amassing wealth. Modi offers a refreshing change in that regard and many are giving him the benefit of doubt for at least trying to change the system, notwithstanding the gigantic loopholes in the implementation. If the 2014 mandate demanded a big bang shake-up of the status quo, Modi has provided it via demonetization. Schadenfreude among common peopleThe German word ‘schadenfreude’ refers to the pleasure derived from someone else’s pain. The reaction to demonetization has been a textbook case of this. People have stood in line for hours and yet not complained, thinking that the wealthy must be suffering a lot more. The fault lines between the poor and the rich have always been stark, hence demonetization has been hailed as a great leveller. This is something PM Modi has managed to sell well by essentially branding the move as a pro-poor step meant to tighten the screws on the unscrupulous rich. Whether it has happened in reality or the rich have managed to give them a slip is immaterial. The perception lingers and that’s what matters in politics.‘Nation building’ in the age of hashtag activismIn another example of potent political messaging, the PM has managed to convey that all the hardships faced by the common man would not be in vain. In fact, it is an important path of nation building, a sacrifice of few hours for the greater good. To paraphrase PM Modi, this is the line to end all the queues of the past 70 years. At a time, when cyber warriors are in abundance, trolling people for not conforming to their set of beliefs, demonetization gives them the validation of not merely being hashtag activists. ‘If the soldiers can stand guard in Siachen, why can’t you stand in line?’ has been an oft-repeated argument in the last couple of weeks. For many who can’t ever think of joining the army or performing a similar level of sacrifice, standing in a queue for the sake of the nation is a quick path to patriotic nirvana.Shifting goalpost has helpedThe government has constantly shifted its goalpost about what exactly the main objective of demonetization is. From the initial thrust of eradicating black money and counterfeit currency, the focus has shifted to promoting digital economy. An aggressive PR campaign has meant that the real issues have been obfuscated. The government has managed to remain unscathed so far without quite revealing what it has gained from the entire exercise. Public reaction may take a turn for the worse when Q3 results of industries and other related economic indices are released in January 2017.Opposition’s unconvincing tiradeFrom day 1, some of the major allegations the Opposition has raised have been about how BJP workers and leaders were in the loop and how businessmen close to BJP were taken into confidence before the decision was announced publicly. Many accusations have been hurled but none have stuck so far, owing to the lack of any tangible proof. Merely calling demonetization a scam doesn’t make it one without any clear evidence. The Opposition may have lost out on a trick here by questioning the intent of demonetization rather than its merit. Sorry state of CongressThe present and future of the principle Opposition party, Congress, remains bleak like a moonless night. In many states, the party remains radar-less without an empowered state unit. With a top heavy structure providing no coherent leadership, Congress has islands of influence of local satraps. It doesn’t have any organised plan to counter BJP’s rampage. Congress was supposed to gain in Chandigarh, but fell by the wayside. In Maharashtra, BJP is making inroads in Congress’ deepest bastions. Punjab is its best shot in the next batch of elections, which will take place in 3-4 months. Yet the party looks wobbly, unsure of its next move. It has given BJP the breathing space to commit a few mistakes of its own without getting severely penalised. The BJP-SAD alliance is widely expected to lose Punjab and yet it managed to increase its numbers in the Chandigarh municipal polls. While it would be wrong to over-analyse the data, owing to the absence of AAP which didn’t take part in the elections, one thing is for sure. BJP-SAD is not a spent force in Punjab, and Congress and AAP can only ignore the ruling alliance at their own peril. In a border state like Punjab, where terrorism, drugs and counterfeit currency are big causes of concern, demonetization may even have a positive effect on voters as it is likely to crack down on these burning problems.Can BJP continue this momentum into the five state polls in 3 months time? A lot will depend on how quickly the system normalises post December 30. The PM asked for 50 days to get rid of black money. The citizens of India seem to have given its ‘pradhan sevak’ that grace period, but patience may run out soon.It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that demonetization hits a section of dedicated BJP voters badly— the trader community and the urban upper class. Yet PM Modi has used his courage of conviction to implement the scheme. Only the future will tell if he can upend all political calculations and end up with a new larger voting block, steadfastly supporting his decisions. That will be no less radical than the decision of demonetization itself.

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6 reasons why, despite being criticised, demonetization has failed to halt BJP’s victory march