In 2002, Pervez Musharraf conducted a nationwide Presidential referendum in Pakistan, to legitimise the coup he conducted three years earlier.
The most interesting and hilarious aspect of this exercise was the ridiculous question it posed to the public:
'Do you want to elect President Musharraf for the next years for: survival of local government system; restoration of democracy, continuity and stability of reforms; eradication of extremism and sectarianism and for the accomplishment of founder of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azam's concept?'
The question could only be answered in a 'yes' or a 'no'.
Why the referendum went in his favour, isn't hard to guess.
On Tuesday, exactly a fortnight after he banned 86% of Indian currency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to take a leaf out of the General's book and decided to seek the opinion of 'sava sau karod deshwaasi' on demonetisation. Of course, the survey isn't accessible to all Indians, but only those who have mobile phones and use the Narendra Modi app.
Not that holding a survey on demonetisation would undo the damage that's already been caused already - it wouldn't bring back to life the people who lost their lives waiting in bank queues nor reverse the downward spiral in various sectors of India's economy.
The objective and the outcome of this survey can only be one - to see the country applauding Narendra Modi for his demonetisation plan. No second outcome is possible. Let's take a look at the questions to find out why.
The first question in this survey, available from Tuesday on the Narendra Modi app, is
1. 'Do you think that black money exists in India? a. Yes b. No'
If your opinion was made public and, Modi forbid, if you said 'No', you would be called a variety of names.
Soft-hearted critics might call you ignorant. Others would label you plainly biased.
But more serious charges - of 'anti-nationalism' may be levelled at you if you dare answer the following question in the negative.
2. 'Do you think the evil of corruption and black money needs to be fought and eliminated? a. Yes b. No'
Remember Musharraf's referendum question?
3. 'Overall, what do you think about the Government's moves to tackle black money?'
Only the third and sixth questions allow some room for dissent. This question also allows government to pick and publicly exhibit letters written by some die hard fans. But you can't measure public's response in binary terms here. Plus, who's going to read so many essays?
4. 'What do you think of the Modi Government's efforts against corruption so far? Scale of 1 to 5 - outstanding, very good, good, ok, useless.'
This is the only question, really, that gives you an actual 'thumbs down' option. Modi government allows its policies against black money to be called useless. But notably, such options aren't allowed in a question specifically about demonetisation policy.
5. 'What do you think of the Modi Government's move of banning old Rs 500 & Rs 1000 notes? a. Great move in the right direction b. Good move c. Will make no difference.'
You only have options to either heap lavish praise, nod your head and applaud or express indifference at the man who took out 86% of India's cash flow in one go, causing large scale misery across India.
6. 'Do you think demonetisation will help in curbing black money, corruption & terrorism? a. It will have an immediate impact b. There will be impact in medium to long term c. Minimal impact d. Don't know.'
Yet another question where the government has generously allowed you to vote in the negative.
7. 'Demonetisation will bring real estate, higher education, healthcare in the common man's reach a. Completely Agree b. Partially Agree c. Can't say.'
In hindsight the previous question was a bait. With this question again, you can either break into a wild dance, stand back and smilingly approve, or just shut up. There is no scope for disagreement.
8. 'Did you mind the inconvenience faced in our fight to curb corruption, black money, terrorism and counterfeiting of currency? a. Not at all b. Somewhat, but it was worth it c. Yes.'
For this question, one hopes that the government allowed people to narrate and share each others' experiences. 'Yes' doesn't quite give you that elbow room, does it?
9. 'Do you believe some anti-corruption activists are now actually fighting in support of black money, corruption & terrorism? a. Yes b. No.'
No Rs 100 notes for guessing that the question targets Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.
The next question could very well have been 'If yes, how would you like them to be finished?' giving you options to either slowly strangle or quickly shoot the 'anti-national(s)'.
10. 'Do you have any suggestions, ideas or insights you would like to share with PM Narendra Modi?'
With this survey Modi government revitalises the old proverb about having ones cake and eating it too. 'Wasn't the cake meant to be eaten?' it asks in a way. In another way it doesn't really ask anything. It tells you to either agree to Modi's policies or run fast.