Writing in the Harvard Business Review, Bhaskar Chakravorti of Tufts University has argued that the landslide victory of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party in Uttar Pradesh is another instance of how "big narrative" trumped data and evidence.
"While we celebrate the age of big data, it may be 'big narrative' that drives the most-profound decisions: We've witnessed it in the UK, in the US, and now in India. When people feel that you're fighting for them, it seems even the most concrete evidence, be it data or history, wields less and less influence," he wrote.
Chakravorti is the Senior Associate Dean of International Business and Finance at The Fletcher School at Tufts University. His observation on the UP election is in the concluding section of his piece titled, "Early Lessons from India's Demonetization Experiment."
Last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party won a record 319 of the 403 Assembly seats following a lengthy and bitterly contested election. The BJP has characterized its stunning victory as a referendum on demonetisation. The UP election was dubbed as the semi-final ahead of the Lok Sabha elections in 2019.
Voters did not the judge Modi on the problems that were brought on by demonetisation or "arcane issues" such as percentage of money deposited in banks or how the GDP growth was calculated, Chakravorti noted. Ultimately, the overriding message was that the "government was acting, and acting decisively, on behalf of ordinary people to fight corruption."
On the election victory being taken as referendum on demonetisation, Chakravorti wrote, "Short of any singing, dancing, and costume changes, this sequence could have been taken from Bollywood, a movie industry widely known for its fantastical flights of fancy."
The "big narrative" versus "big data" theory will be tested in the French elections, next month, and the Dutch elections underway today, he noted.
In the post, Chakravorti also examined the utility of demonetisation in rooting out corruption, the innovation of the Modi government around digital payments and why the official economy-wide data did not reflect ground realities.
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