State Elections 2017 – Is it a referendum on Demonetisation ?

As Modi repeats his 2014 performance in the aftermath of the so called disaster of Demonetisation, the least that can be safely said is, the affects (sic) of demonetisation either present or future hasn’t touched the common mass. This reminds me of a friend of mine during my tenure in an Odisha PSU.

It was early nineties and the privatisation bug had bitten the then Chief Minister of the state; the indomitable Late Biju Patnaik. He trained his guns on the state owned Industrial Development Corporation of Orissa (I’m not sure if till date anyone has bothered to change the name of the company replacing Orissa by Odisha. In any case, for the PSU popularly referred as IDCOL, a change in name is only an academic exercise at the best.), which is a conglomerate with manufacturing facility from Salt to Steel. At the helm then was an IAS who would be privately referred as the de facto Chief Minister during Congress regime. Obviously for him it was a more a question of saving his skin and prove his efficiency and hence loyalty to the then ruling dispensation.

A consultant was appointed and pliable officers of different units were paraded before him, apparently to give the expert a feel of the ground realities. And confirming the rumour making rounds for months, the Consultant suggested IDCOL to change the status of its units to subsidiaries. That also meant, by then the much abused loss making outfit can be treated to the luxury of a book profit by transfer of assets to the newly formed subsidiaries.

But the problem was to decide the status of the huge workforce, majority of whom were employees of the parent company. More daunting was the task of protecting the corporate office employees, most of whom had strong political or beaurocratic backup, which entailed them to remain firmly anchored in the state capital with best of career and perks. By precedence and preference they had to be designated the best, notwithstanding the fact that most of them didn’t even have a nodding acquaintance with factory operation. So as is their won’t, a general circular was issued stating that, the employees working in a subsidiary company on the date of their formation, would be construed as employees of that outfit i.e. they would cease to be the employees of the parent company any more. This was challenged by the employees in the High Court.

At such a juncture this friend of mine was requested by majority of us to take over reigns of the Officers’ Association of one of the subsidiary companies. We knew this character was unpredictable, but we also believed his honesty of purpose. We were confident that no matter however cunning, nobody can hawk this fellow. He started his inning off the beaten track. In one of the first, he shot off a letter to the CMD, that the change in status of employment was something apparently done without his personal knowledge and invited him to correct the wrong done. Obviously the undertone was the CMD himself could be dragged to court.

But an efficient administration is more about the wrong that can be committed clandestinely than implementing the spirit of law. And they moved. In a general body meeting the stage managed audience advised the General Secretary to dissolve the association. And he put in his papers. Notwithstanding his excellent performance in a dilapidated setup, he was eased out from project marketing to a BIFR plant as Head of Engineering, with an intention to dent his professional proficiency so far unchallenged. It’s another matter that here also he achieved a record production utilising the facility to capacity for the first time in its life.

Once when I raked the issue of his resigning from the association, he confided “Do you really consider me to be that idiot who even didn’t recognise the Brutuses in the outfit ! If at all sympathise with them who thought that they have outsmarted me. As for me, I still am and continue to be on best of terms with them personally. After all I can’t imagine everyone to put their carrier at stake for a cause. Do you ?” I had no answer but was shocked to discover that this fellow had full knowledge of every single move behind his back.

Twenty Two years, fourteen transfers, four supercesions and record achievements at multiple responsibilities later, he opted for Voluntary Retirement. The last I heard about him, he was a reasonably successful senior executive; this time in Private Sector.

The Joint Declaration of Bajpayee Musharraf Agra Submit in 2001 was apparently hijacked by the inflexible stand taken by the then Home Minister L K Advani. As Ravish Kumar then an enthusiastic journalist with NDTV was reporting live, in came one of the then General Secretaries of the ruling BJP. His name was Narendra Modi, a confident of Bajpayee which would later earn him the Chief Ministership of Gujarat. He virtually laced out at the budding journalist for his apparent false report, literally driving him to tears. It’s another matter that on July 6, 2015, A S Dulat, former chief of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s external intelligence agency, revealed that L.K. Advani played a role in the collapse of the Agra Summit.

But by now much water has flown down the Ganges (albeit dirtier!) and both Ravish and Modi have hardly changed their basic style; though one has become the Chief Editor of NDTV India and the other the Prime Minister. While Ravish is busy turning his camera on the long cues before the ATMs and the cracked soils in the farming land, Modi knows well that the views of world famous economists are only a urban food and one can safely convince the gullible public that demonetisation is essentially a fight against black money. He has cunningly hidden the shin of communalism behind a more popular Triple Talaque to a resigned-to-the-fate minority which in any case has already been banned in many Muslim Countries around the world.

But if I can see through the machinations, will it behove of me to quit and raise my hands in desperation? No, that’s not my cup of tea and I’m sure nor of Kejriwal’s either. No compromise with communalism, be it associated with any faith. Not only here but anywhere in the world. And the suffering continues in the same vain as the thorn eating camels’ bleeding jaw.


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