When Modi croons Dylan

Irony was personified, many concur, when the Prime Minister Narendra Modi quoted Nobel laureate Bob Dylan’s iconic 1964 anti-establishment song, ‘The times they are a-changin’ to address revelers during a concert by Coldplay in Mumbai on November 19.



“This was definitely a song with a purpose,” Dylan had insisted later about the song written at the heights of civil rights movement particularly amplifying the pent-up frustrations at the flaws of the government policies.


“Come mothers and fathers, throughout the land, and don’t criticise, what you cannot understand. Your sons and your daughters, are beyond your command. Your old roads rapidly agin.’ Please get out of the new one, if you can’t lend your hand, for the times they are a-changin,” said Modi apparently hitting out at doubting Thomases questioning his latest demonetisation move.


That Modi has appropriated of the most famous anti-establishment song to drive home a point smack of acute callousness and the impunity with which the Government is executing current exercise.


A ‘well-intended’ move, even the ardent Modi admirers agree that, the whole process is an implementation nightmare with utter disregard for the enormity of the problem it would create, including loss of many lives.


“Its imagination unleashes the state on you, in the name of protecting your own virtue, Pratap Bhanu Mehta commented in The Indian Express adding that the government has taken a gamble, without any reasonably “rigorous reasoning on the costs and effects.”


The measure has failed two reasonable administrative tests – a shocking degree of callousness about the hardships these measures impose; and most importantly there were more predictable policy measures that would have yielded as much benefit as this one, Metha reasoned quoting an analysis by Suyash Rai of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy (NIPFP).


Prabhat Patnaik, a well known economist said that the move “betrays a lack of understanding of capitalism in the government.” The capitalist notion of innovation, instead of curbing black business, will actually give rise to the proliferation of black business, he told The Wire.


The reaction from foreign media has been pretty harsh on Modi, who basks on clever media relation.


“Modi’s scheme has more in common with the failed experiments of dictatorships which led to runaway inflation, currency collapse and mass protests. While Modi campaigned to end corruption, it would have been better if the government had updated its antiquated tax system to realise such a task,” The Guardian opined.


Cash is king in India, a New York Times editorial read, the change has thrown the “economy into turmoil, with many millions of people forced to line up at banks to deposit or exchange their old bills.”


“What seemed at first to be a masterstroke by Prime Minister Narendra Modi now looks like a grave miscalculation… What’s changed in a week? Well, for one, it’s become clear that the government was simply too cavalier in its planning…Modi’s asked people to be patient for 50 days, but the process could take as long as four months,” Bloomberg said in a commentary.


The irony was not lost in him. It was a deliberate and perfectly timed – a direct invalidation of any criticisms or frailties in its policy. “If you cannot lend your hand” simply go and get a new one, the Prime Minister asserted implying that the line are already drawn and if you don’t follow it, “you’ll sink like a stone.”


A close observer would articulate that polarization politics has been the hallmark of the current dispensation. Modi’s appropriation of the Dylan’s protest song is a premeditated action to escalate the narrative to portentous assertion.



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