This World Politics in a Time of Populist Nationalism (WPTPN) guest post is written by Nikhil Kalyanpur, a PhD student in Government at Georgetown University. He researches business-government relations and the relationship between security and finance.
While Donald Trump has naturally dominated headlines across the world this past month, his chauvinistic brother-in-arms Narenda Modi has been just as active. The boss from Gujarat is taking a page from today’s global autocratic elite – exploiting international liberal norms to further illiberal ends. The BJP’s dramatic demonetization initiative leaves nearly 87% percent of Indian currency (the 500 and 1000 rupee notes) void, in a country where virtually the same percentage of the economy operates informally. The move is meant to curb the endemic corruption eating the Indian bureaucracy, and crack down on tax evasion and apparent (“Pakistani”) currency counterfeiting. The country is not quite following Modi’s modernization script. The country is stumbling toward recession while the burden is disproportionately placed on the poor, and, in particular, rural women for whom cash is the only way to escape abusive relationships. While the economy grinds to a halt, the legislature has been thrown into gridlock, US Congress-style, as the filibuster is now all the rage.