It is a sad reflection on national life in India that the only two anniversaries that provide unquestionable occasions for joy and celebrations are Independence Day and Republic Day ~ virtually all other festivity is religion-linked.
In contrast, there are several other anniversaries that are “observed” with more than a tinge of regret ~ the assassination of the Father of the Nation, the killing of a prime minister, the days on which communally inflamed riots erupted, in Delhi in 1984, Gujarat in 2002. Somehow natural/man-made disasters do not evoke the same passions, except perhaps the gas-leak in Bhopal, among the world’s worst industrial mishaps.
Probably unique to this country are politically-generated “Black Days”: 25 June 1975 when the Emergency was imposed and the people were denied their civil liberties, and what is being flayed in some sections today one-year after demonetisation.
There is a common link, both “actions” were hailed by the government of the day. In 1975 the argument was that the administration was “saved” in the wake of a call to the police etc not to follow “illegal orders”. Now the government argues that the junking of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes was to eliminate black money from the system.
Neither contention was lapped up the people, but the latter has been accepted in some quarters. The Emergency is now accepted as a national shame, the jury is still “out” on 8 November 2016. But it was the common citizen who was worst hit by both those acts.
The theory that the “trains ran on time” in 1975-77 was openly ridiculed the moment press censorship was scrapped. There is however fairly vocal opposition to the claim that demonetisation was a case of “short-term pain for long-term gains”.
There could be one major difference, Indira Gandhi was ejected from office in the post-Emergency election but since a Lok Sabha poll is still a couple of years away Narendra Modi might not draw such fire. And despite anything the BJP leadership might say, Assembly elections are not in the same league. How the “celebration versus condemnation” will play out remains to be seen; the confrontation actually adds up to a test of the Opposition’s capacity to deliver a punch, one that might “sting” beyond Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat.
Previous attempts to erect an anti-BJP platform on the basis a “disrupted economy” have floundered, competition within the Opposition ranks negating any “cementing” effect. Those who insist that it is a reworked Rahul Gandhi who spearheads the Opposition will find their confidence under scrutiny in coming days.
Truly, in a democracy people get the” government they deserve”. We will soon know if they have also got the Opposition they deserve.