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Self criticism for the online right: Why are we giving liberals a free pass on the economy right now?

The following taunt probably applies to me as much as anyone else on the online right. Are we opponents of the liberals or their court jesters?

They want to talk about some fake political “scientist” leading “farmer protests”? Okay, so we will start debating the ideas of this unqualified non-intellectual. We will criticize him, debunk him, expose him and more generally make this individual the centerpiece of national attention.

Then, they want to talk about some climate “activist.” So we oblige. They talk about how she is a wonderful person who wants to fill the world with rainbows and unicorns (and smoke from crop stubble burning). They will write revolutionary poetry about her spending a couple of days in custody. We will take that on and “expose” the hypocrisy of climate groups, sinister meetings with possible Khalistanis, speculate and debate her motivations and so on…

They want to talk about high fuel prices? So, we will talk about that. If the prices of onions were soaring right now, we would talk about that too… But they are not, so we will talk about fuel. When the price of fuel goes down and the price of onions goes up, we will talk about onions.

The following taunt probably applies to me as much as anyone else on the online right. Are we opponents of the liberals or their court jesters?

They choose the topics, they set the agenda. We desperately debate and try to debunk them. They have nothing but contempt for our ideas, our words and our very existence. On the other hand, we try to engage with them, persuade them and generally make them feel like they are the most important people in the world.

The question is: Why are the news cycles all being set by the liberals?

Do you remember the Bihar state elections? Those may seem like a long time ago, but it has barely been three months. Why? Because immediately after the election results were declared, liberals switched the news cycle to the so called farmers protest. Remember how excited journalists could hardly stay on their feet when the exit polls from Bihar came out. Remember the electric atmosphere in TV studios that night? And remember them swooning over the crowds at Tejashwi’s rallies?

Do you think Bihar would have been forgotten in 24 hours or less if liberals had got the result they wanted? But we let it happen. We stopped talking about Bihar because they stopped talking about Bihar! Imagine that.

The same applies right now to the economy. How are we letting the biggest story in India slip through the cracks? Anyone care about the economy? Why aren’t we talking about the economy?

By all accounts, India has pulled off an absolutely stunning turnaround after the body blow from Covid. The GDP growth may turn out positive in the Oct-Dec quarter itself, bringing India out of technical recession. Most forecasters agree that India will show the highest GDP growth among all major economies in 2021. Everything is on a high, be it auto sales or electricity consumption. The GST collection in Jan 2021 rose 8% over Jan 2020 to an all time high of Rs 1.2 lakh crore. Even in the pandemic year, India saw 13% growth in FDI. Only one other major country showed positive FDI growth in 2020 and it was China, which was far behind at just 4%.

No wonder the Sensex is zooming. Forex reserves have reached unprecedented levels. Note that even during the pandemic, while other BRIC currencies like Brazilian Real and Russian Rubles collapsed by 25-33%, the Indian Rupee held firm, falling no more than 3-4%.

This is remarkable. It is a stinging slap in the faces of all those screaming headlines by both “economists” (and all weather experts) from last year. When the government spoke about a V-shaped recovery last year, they were roundly mocked. Well, the V-shaped recovery is right here.

But why aren’t we talking about this? How did the economy go out of the headlines? Or more precisely, why did we let them take it out of the headlines?

Remember when India’s GDP dropped by a 23.9% in the April-June quarter last year? Anyone with any sense could see that this was the fallout of a once in century pandemic. But liberals didn’t buy the explanation. They blamed the government for pushing India into a recession. They couldn’t stop talking about the economy back then. And they went on news shows and ridiculed people for talking about anything else.

Okay, so why are we talking about some 21 year old now instead of talking about our great economic recovery. If liberals insist she was not a threat to anyone, they should ignore her, no? And talk about the economy like they wanted to back in August or September.

But this post is not about the liberals. This is about the online right indulging whatever the left wants to talk about.

Remember their point about worst performing economy? That has vanished too. The -24% figure was just for one quarter in the whole year. The final number for 2020 will be around -7%. For comparison, countries such as the UK have seen a 10% contraction in 2020. So the “worst performer” tag was just an illusion. A momentary thing because India adopted the strictest lockdown in the world. By all accounts, it worked. The pandemic stalled.

All nightmare projections about collapse of India’s healthcare system were proved wrong. During the lockdown, hundreds of millions of people received food aid through a digitized system with minimal leaks. Once the lockdown was lifted, there was V-shaped recovery in the economy. And all of this was achieved with minimal stimulus, which saved our fiscal math.

The ‘smart people’ second guessed us at each stage. More so, they heckled us at each stage. They made no secret of their contempt for everything India did during the pandemic. They reveled in their belief about how wrong we were.

When the green shoots began to emerge in October, they screamed “pent up demand.” For a while. Then, one by one, they felt silent. Never in history have so many ‘smart people’ been wrong about such a big thing on such a global scale.

So why aren’t we rubbing the egg on their faces? Why aren’t we heckling them till they emerge from under their desks, mumbling excuses for their claimed status as international experts? If any of their doomsday predictions had come true, do you think they would have let us be?

So how about we don’t wait for them this time. How about we start drawing the line on mainstream media, social media and all available forums and demand that people talk about the economy? How about we demand that these liberal experts (qualified economists and otherwise) explain their past remarks or publicly eat crow? Let’s not allow this moment to pass. They would not let it go. So why should we?

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Abhishek Banerjee
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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