Bright Hopes Follow Tragic Event

Yatindra Bhatnagar

New year 2017 has arrived bringing in hopes for a brighter year all around washing away tears of the tragic event in the previous one.

Personally for me and my family the last year was extremely tragic. Sadhana, my dear and multi-talented wife of nearly 55 years, had passed away in May. With that it was sadness all around but we kept clinging on to beautiful memories of Sadhana’s loving and caring life and her contribution to the extended family. She also gave her best to the world of arts with her painting and sketches, and writing.   She was loved very much and will remain in our hearts forever.

We also got a very happy news soon after the great tragedy; it was about our granddaughter Tamanna Roashan’s pregnancy and her faith that she is getting back her Nani (grandma) in the form of her child. She loved her grandma immensely and she will always see Nani’s spirit in her baby. We are all with her on this and are looking forward to the next few weeks when the little girl will make her appearance and put smiles on our faces and change our lives.

Politically the year was a big game-changer with the triumph of Donald Trump in the US elections and demonetization of high value currency notes in India. The US election campaign was bitter, the result, for some, more bitter. However, the nation has got a new leader with new ideas and new vision. He is certainly not the Politically Correct leader from the old establishment and, therefore, not obliged to the Washington-politics of special interests and career politicians.

International Opinion and I, personally, even before the re-emergence of our Website, pointed out the pluses and minuses of the top candidates and supported the one with clear ideas about national security, economic growth, war on terror, illegal immigration, flood of refugees and ‘Making America Great Again.’   

Hillary Clinton had too much baggage and her acts of commission and omission were too many to be ignored. Her conflict of interest during her job as the Secretary of State, her e-mail scandal, the Benghazi fiasco, the Clinton Foundation wealth, her enormous campaign funds coming from persons of dubious background and interests, and her elitist attitude all went against her.  

Donald Trump smartly exploited these weaknesses and floated new ideas. He was blunt; he issued outrageous statements but expressed his commitment to work for the common people and not be obliged to the big money and to keep the status quo. Trump’s message resonated with the people and states neglected by, or taken granted for, by the Democratic Party.

That’s how Trump was able to turn the tables and administer the biggest shock of her life to Hillary Clinton and her powerful supporters with huge money bags, and her pack of backers among the mainstream media. Most of the big newspapers such as The New York Times on the East Coast and Los Angeles Times on the West, and many other prominent ones went out of their way to not only support Hillary but relentlessly campaign for her.  

It was shameful conduct by the media – both print and broadcast/telecast  -  of openly endorsing Hillary Clinton but in that process all norms of faithful, truthful and objective reporting and writing were flouted. Fake news reports were planted, biased articles were written and untrue news stories were circulated. On top of all that, questions for debates were sent to Hillary prior to the event and favorable reports duly approved by the Clinton Campaign were dutifully printed and broadcast. In some cases the news channels behaved like the campaign office for the Democratic candidate.   

Trump defeated them all and won some states that traditionally voted the Democrats. It was a stunning victory that his detractors have not yet been able to digest. That group included President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, who aggressively campaigned for Hillary. Obama and Michelle used all the public resources in crisscrossing the country to appeal for Hillary.

Eight years back in the Democratic primaries it was different, and of course natural, when Hillary was blasted relentlessly by Obama like “she would say anything and change nothing.” Michelle also had made a comment alluding to Clinton and her marriage and Bill Clinton’s affairs though without naming Hillary. But the message was clear.

Michelle had then said at a rally in Chicago: "One of the things, the important aspects of this race, is role-modeling what good families should look like. And my view is that if you can't run your own house, you certainly can't run the White House."  It was devastating, if you get the message. This was the level of disdain.

However, 2016 was totally different and Obama was desperate for a Clinton win. It was shocking to read that Obama wanted his legacy to continue with a Clinton victory and exhorted people to give him a parting gift by electing the Democratic candidate. He had termed a Trump win as his insult. But in the end he also lost face. Hillary – all the time backed up and propped up by husband Bill  - also took the Obamas down  with her like many other stalwarts.

It was also childish for Obama to say after the election that if he was the candidate he would have defeated Trump. He also kept on blaming Russia for hacking and thus helping Trump; in his utter frustration and misplaced anger he ordered expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats. Sore losers, indeed!

Russian President Vladimir Putin replied with no retaliatory expulsion of US  diplomats; instead he invited children of American diplomats for a holiday party. What a fitting answer to Obama, indeed a parting kick for the outgoing US Prez.

We are happy Trump won and the nation will have an ‘outsider’ to prove himself worthy of the trust the nation reposed in him. Several terrible terrorist attacks at various places and disturbing migration-related crimes have taken place all around the world to make this transition more important in national and international field.

Trump faces enormous odds and problems. He has to stand firm and start tackling them right away. Among the problems are economy, foreign affairs and securing America’s borders externally and saving lives internally. The next 100 days will give the people a very clear indication where and how things will move.

In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi took a bold and very uncommon decision to ban currency notes of  Rs. 500 and Rs.1000 denominations. A storm ensued as the people were not prepared for this bombshell – nobody could be as the step had to be taken in absolute secrecy and without notice. Things did result in utter chaos and big discomfort to people, initially, and the political rivals got a big issue to fight the government. Now things have eased to a large extent and the opposition has slowly started to see the futility of its campaign though some disgruntled parties without any other solid issues are not yet prepared to give up their defiant stand.  Modi has made it clear that those who oppose demonetization are shielding the corrupt.  

The Prime Minister did take a big risk in this war on corruption and black money. He has come out confident and positive and his campaign has proved to be result-oriented with thousands of crores of black money discovered, surrendered and confiscated. The biggest opponents, of course, were the political rivals like the Congress party, West Bengal’s TMC government and its hyperactive Chief Minister Mamata Bannerji, the BSP of UP and its leader Mayawati, and the Communist parties. However, with this stand they have proved to be big supporters of corruption and protectors of black money in the country.

There have been several arrests of culprits and confiscation of hauls of gold and hordes of notes justifying the government’s war against black money.  

With elections due in some states in the next few months, Narendra Modi’s bold decision on demonetization is certainly going to affect votes. Let’s hope that the common people – who certainly were no hoarders of black money though inconvenienced initially by not getting enough cash for day-to-day expenses – would grasp the tremendous value of the bold steps. They have to realize the positive impact on India’s economy and increase in investments.

The move has strengthened the rupee in relation to the dollar, a good sign of the strength of Indian economy as a direct result of the demonetization. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party hopes that the coming polls will prove the gains of demonetization and the war on corruption and black money, one of the most important poll promises of Narendra Modi to the people.

The fact that demonetization has been endorsed and praised by a host of international celebrities such as Bill Gates and others speaks volumes about Modi’s drastic step. Those who were affected by it in a big way were crafty politicians, Hawala dealers (money launderers), fake currency smugglers, real estate mafia, terrorist organizations, sports betting groups, fake trusts and charities, a part of the huge film industry, rich agricultural landowners (enjoying big tax relief) and even big educational institutions that amass enormous funds as admission fees from KG to Ph. D students. Their hoard of big currency notes became scraps of useless paper. With that is gone their unfair clout in various fields of activity.

And so, let’s keep our chins up, adopt a positive outlook and look forward to better days bringing in peace, security, progress, joy and prosperity. However, all that requires our own pro-active contribution as valuable members of the community and our conduct as responsible citizens to make this planet a better place to live.