Courage is often a misunderstanding of suicide or gamble. It appears that Prime Minister Narendra Modi, whose devotees are celebrating his “boldness” for delegitimising large bills, has in fact made a calculated gamble. And it is turning out to be an excellent move. He has already gotten away with it, only the extent of his rewards is unclear.
This may not be apparent at first glance, especially if you are not very fond of him. There are communism-grade queues outside banks, which do not have enough cash to distribute. For the first time an Indian economic crisis is not about people being broke but about their inability to reach their sufficient or abundant money. There are stories of the old dying in the queues, the poor distraught, restaurants and malls bleeding, commercial sex workers unemployed.
There is no doubt that the citizens are furious, but they will not punish Modi for it. He did suspect that. He may not have been so confident about inflicting demonetisation in the summer months when people, especially in north India are prone to violence.
Even though people have suffered greatly, and many have lost portions of their hard-earned illicit money, it is hard to dispute that the government has performed a moral act. Surprisingly, the government has been able to communicate the reasonable message widely and deeply. It is rare for people to have an accommodating view of a sudden policy that only has long-term benefits, especially one that has hurt them. But there is observable evidence that the general public is with Modi on this.