On the 8th of November, 500 and 1000 rupee currency notes were demonetized by the Prime Minister in an unprecedented move. The sudden announcement was greeted with optimistic zeal by a tense Indian citizenry who were finally witnessing action after years of lip service by countless politicians.
In the nearly three weeks that have passed since then, some unanticipated effects of demonetization have surfaced. With the crucial Uttar Pradesh elections round the corner, such a massive decision is bound to have wide ranging political implications for the BJP which are unforeseeable at this point. But there is a reason to cheer on one count. The agenda setting along caste lines by the biased media has been lulled before it could translate into damage. The fabricated and highly polarising narratives engineered by the media and the so called intellectuals proved to be successful in influencing the Delhi and Bihar elections to the effect that the BJP suffered massive defeats (read: Journalists caught inventing incidents and data around caste atrocity ahead of elections).
In both these instances the media machinery went out of its way to portray the Prime Minister and the BJP as communal and oppressive, manipulating the voters with their shoddy tactics. They succeeded in shifting focus from development to secularism, from ‘Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikaas’ to intolerance right before the elections. And miraculously, right after the elections India would be cured of these ’emergencies’. As the UP elections were drawing closer, the biased media was again gearing up for a burial of journalistic ethics. The agenda was to divide people along caste lines by portraying the BJP as oppressor of lower castes. Every unfortunate incident involving discrimination against Dalits was somehow linked to the BJP and blown out of proportion. Stories were fabricated to suit the narrative being created. Rumours were made headlines and hearsay was spun and printed as truth. All major media houses started highlighting Dalit atrocities and the debate had already become the central talking point since July.
But ever since the demonetization was announced, any mention of Dalit atrocities has virtually vanished from the national media space. The most elementary observation of news tweets from major media houses reveals how any caste based reporting has disappeared since 08 Nov with only 6 tweets containing the words ‘Dalit’ or ‘caste’. Moreover these tweets aren’t regarding violence against lower castes but instead about ‘clean-politics’ Messiah Arvind Kejriwal’s tweet declaring that AAP will make a Dalit its deputy CM in Punjab.
So, does this mean that violence against lower castes has stopped entirely? No, ofcourse not. But this means that the talking point for electoral debate has now been set by the Prime Minister with the media and Opposition being forced to form narratives based on the twin surgical strikes- one against Pakistan and the other against black money. He has preempted a further media-driven division along caste and religious lines of the UP electorate by causing a centralization of the elections around a simple binary- either the voters will approve of his actions for development & the nation at large and against black money & corruption or they won’t. And while the BJP found itself on the wrong side of the intolerance and ‘minorities under siege’ debate the recent bypoll and Maharashtra municipal corporation results suggest it is on the right side of this one.