I had decided to delay this month's editorial for The Sunday Indian till 11/9 (writing 9th of November the American way) because i wanted to write the edit on the next American President. But as the jokes go, Modi decided to upstage the American excitement, at least in India!
But before coming to Modi, let me finish writing on why Trump as POTUS makes me reasonably happy! I followed the elections in the US with maximum enthusiasm till Bernie lost. Have written earlier too that I wanted Bernie to get the Democratic nomination like no one else ever, including Obama! And had it been Bernie, today most likely, Democrats would have been the guys celebrating!
Post Hillary getting the nomination, all excitement died. Yes, I would have loved to see a woman finally breaking the Presidential glass ceiling! But did that mean supporting Hillary? When Susan Sarandon was asked why wouldn't she support Hillary when the man she supported – Bernie – wanted support for Hillary, she said, "I don't vote with my vagina". That's the crux, you vote with your brains.
And I am glad Americans used their below average brains to vote. So the result? First the sad one... Bernie lost and Americans proved that as a nation, they were still intellectually dwarfed. Next, the better one. Trump won. And Americans proved that though they are less educated as a nation on the whole, they are not complete idiots yet. So why am I happy at Trump's victory?
Well, I quite disliked that (as Trump loves to call her) crooked woman for certain. Trump has been a case study of business success in B-schools all over the world and is quite transparent. You get what you see. An arrogant, boisterous billionaire with scant respect for anyone... and absolutely practical. To me, Trump represents in every which way the majority of Americans. From the Great American Dream of unlimited wealth in their eyes to their multiple partners, marriages and divorces to being absolutely coarse and racist illiterates... He is America! Rarely has anyone ever represented today's America more, at least in the Oval office.
As I told a friend of mine as she stood in a queue to vote, I wouldn't vote at all if I were in her place; but if I had to, I would vote for Hillary and hope that she loses... That way, I wouldn't live for four years with the guilt of electing an unscrupulous lady of totally suspect ethics and values nor live with the guilt of voting for an openly racist misogynist.
I also believe that unlike Hillary, Trump would be under no pressure to prove "I am as good as a man"... and chances are that the world will be more peaceful... For the first time, a man who has been openly respectful of Russia – and wanting to be friends with Putin – with a formerly communist wife is the President of US. In my understanding, Hillary would have escalated the neo -Cold War. Trump, on the other hand, as per my guess – apart from the US President being a lame duck – wouldn't do any over-the-top nonsense which he kept saying during his campaign. That's my guess. That was the marketing strategy of a true blue reality realty star. I absolutely don't believe he will do anything stupid... He would rather choose having a good romp in each room of the White House or getting a himself a new wife for all that matters, over going for a war.
Did I sound disrespectful? Yes and No. I respect his business acumen and his leadership abilities. I don't respect his openly racist behaviour that he displayed and his misogynistic attitude. But then, as I said, that's the average American for you!
Also, I believe, it was time Obama paid for doing nothing worth his while in eight long years – apart from taking home the Nobel Peace Prize – despite his big words and charm. Yes, he was and remains a decent guy... but then, we all know, decency is a completely overrated virtue. Two weeks post his White House tenure, he could be caught having a foursome with two men and a sex worker. And yet, that wouldn't really make any difference to who he is.
Internally, after a few days, stock markets will be back and the economy will be as it was. Trump really won't make it any worse. In fact, there might be a few more casinos attracting some more tourists – the Vegas way – as an added attraction. But on the flip side, Obama made a mess in the world... from Afghanistan to Syria. And that may get cleaned up due to Trump. And the number of illegal immigration might reduce inside America. And China and Pakistan will probably face real heat... So, let's celebrate Trump's victory and look forward towards a more practical and peace loving America. Let's hope for a better world. A Trump-Modi-Putin axis too? Let's keep that for another day.
Coming now to the Indian 11/9 and Modi!
Modi, after his three year complete letdown with the rubbish Swachh Bharat campaign, which resulted into nothing concrete, finally Dared To Think Beyond as 11/9 set in on India! What a courageous and brilliant move to ban 500 and 1000 rupee notes! Absolutely the greatest thing he could ever do! This is what people expected from him. A man who would have the courage to take tough steps unlike his predecessors. A man who would really go behind the corrupt. And he did it with elan. There is absolutely nothing bigger as well as symbolic that he could have done – to give Indians hope as well as to wipe off black cash circulating inside India! Two thumbs up! Now of course we await another move to attack the real big hoarders of black money. Those who have it stashed abroad... Am sure since he has done this, he will do something about that too... and soon!
Till then, let's rejoice this almost once in a lifetime moment! At IIPM Think Tank, we are specially happy, because we have always supported the idea of abolishing 500 and 1000 rupee notes.
But yes, let's admit that this doesn't solve the black money problem. A huge proportion of black money is stored in land and gold. So, the truth is, too much to be done yet. But I do believe this is a huge beginning because a substantial amount of black money is in cash... And for even those who have it in property/gold, the rates will fall now.
So, many of those Indians who avoided paying taxes despite being fully aware of them and kept making black money, will surely suffer. Yes, the big guys have it mostly stored abroad. And Modi knows it very well. So one would still await his promise on that front, specially because many of these guys are his supposed close friends.
It's also interesting to note that most politicians get their funds from smaller business guys in India. So this move of Modi is a political masterstroke too, with UP and Punjab elections coming up. Most political rivals will suffer big time! As of now, Mamata Banerjee at least is openly livid, though for other reasons, and plans to file a PIL I am certain it will be dismissed.
I believe this is just the beginning of real action from Modi. And this will continue hopefully not just till 2019 but till 2024. He surely realizes that eyewash policies like Swachh Bharat and divisive attempts to polarize India aren't the ways forward. Before elections, he spoke of toilets before temples and the Constitution of India being his only religious book. I think he has finally remembered his words.
The question now is, will he take similar path breaking steps towards education, health, employment and judicial reforms? If he does that, he could end up being one of the greatest world leaders, because, changing India is like changing the world.