A year ago, 2018 was welcomed with high expectations in India when Prime Minister Narendra Modi's stature was at its peak riding high on BJP's win in Uttar Pradesh state Assembly elections. Almost all political analysts were writing obits for the main opposition Congress.
Surprisingly, such a feat too failed to last longer when BJP witnessed a visible setback in Karnataka, followed by a decisive defeat in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh as the yearend approached. Woken up to a new reality, BJP has been reworking its pre-poll strategy for the Lok Sabha elections, which may be held in April and May 2019.
Essentially, Modi and the BJP strategists have ignored the basic tenet of Machiavellian rule while governing the state. Long ago, the Italian philosopher advised the 'Prince' never to lay his eyes or hands on the property of any citizen, since "a man may forgive the killer of his father but not the person who snatched away his property."
But then the stunning 2017 electoral victory in Uttar Pradesh despite uproar on demonetisation in 2016 led many to believe that cracking on black money was welcomed, writ large. But what happened was different.
In fact, both demonetisation and GST have gradually snatched away whatever little margins that the middle class could count on at the end of the month. It took not months but more than a year to sink in their minds that someone had taken away their margin in the form of GST. Coupled with it, the evasion of bank loans by big business houses led them believe that someone had been allowed to flee the country with 'their' money.
Above all, the truth that was submerged effectively on social media with social software engineers working round the clock was no longer favouring the producers of fake news. Surprisingly, identifying and isolating fake news players has become visibly strong in 2018 on Facebook and Twitter.
Moreover, those on the street, not using the social media, could feel the pinch of it decisively when they had to pay more money than before, for everything. It took more than a year for the middle class and the farmers to realise what they've lost. Soon, the truth started sinking into the minds of the middle class while the freebies failed to percolate down to those at the bottom of the pyramid.
To be fair to Modi, demonetisation would have been successful had the banking structure of the country was robust. Unfortunately a right decision came at a wrong time. Adding fuel to it, GST was introduced in a hurry to impress the world powers and bankers but the actual trader on the street was left with dismay and anger, while India's rank in World Bank's "Doing Business" Index went up.
With just three months left for any reversal, all eyes are on Modi's next step or else he will join the ranks of one-term but decisive prime ministers like Rajiv Gandhi, PV Narasimha Rao and AB Vajpayee.