The 30 minutes that brought the country to a standstill
Illustration: Prathap Ravishankar

The 30 minutes that brought the country to a standstill

Since November 8, 2016, the words ‘Mitron’ and ‘Mere pyaare desh vasiyon’ by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been giving jitters to Indians, cutting across income groups. The much-debated demonetisation drive had created long queues outside petrol pumps and ATMs, apart from making scores camp outside banks for surrendering the notes. So, on March 27, when the PM tweeted at around 11 am, saying, “I would be addressing the nation at around 11:45 am – 12.00 noon with an important message. Do watch the address on television, radio or social media,” it was a moment of déjà vu for all.

With the scheduled briefing being in the middle of many official appointments and agenda, some tweeted about putting meetings on hold to stay glued to the TV, the Internet and radio. Some wondered if they had to stock up on groceries and other essentials, as speculations were rife about the probability of a Demo-2.

Tweeple ran amok with predictions, apprehensions and some hilarious take on what the announcement would be about. With the Model Code of Conduct being in place since the beginning of the month, serious analysts ruled out the possibility if news of doles and schemes. The recent news reports of the shadow of war lingering on India and Pakistan spun stories of impending war. The news of the CCS meeting being chaired before the said announcement, sent them all into a tizzy, with guesses of the news of Jaish-E-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar being dead or the details of Balakot strike set to be released.

An inordinate delay of the address, from the scheduled 11:45 to 12:15 stretched the creativity manifold. With April Fool’s Day around the corner, some wondered if the PM was yet again pulling a fast one at them.

However, the announcement was a damp squib for many, for it didn’t adhere to any of the story trails. Talking about Mission Shakti, in which a low orbit satellite was shot down using Anti satellite  (ASAT) missile, the PM said, “I congratulate all the scientists of the DRDO,” Modi said, referring to Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

Common folk were left wondering if this was another of Modi’s googly. Modi’s address was about space, science, strategic reasons and Indian achievement, but was there a hidden message for them, they wondered in apprehension.

Another major accomplishment, on a lighter note, of the mission was that it amply propelled the wildest of imagination of the tweeple.

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