THE DEMONETISATION of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes may displace civic matters as the main issue in the Municipal Corporation elections to be held on December 18, especially if cash flow and trade do not pick up soon.
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The move has paralysed trade across sectors. Retailers in the city are staring at empty shops and malls, and wholesalers have slashed procurement. Small traders, a main voter base for BJP, have been hit.
A BJP councillor said if the situation did not normalise within a week, it would impact the party’s prospects in the elections. “A businessman is usually a BJP voter, but andar sey sab ro rahe hai (but inside they are all crying)”.
However, BJP city chief Sanjay Tandon said it was the the NDA government’s “strongest decision” and would be on top of the party’s achievements’ list.
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“I throw an open challenge to the Congress. It is a problem only to one per cent of people and as for the rest, every citizen is hailing the decision of the Prime Minister,” said Tandon.
Congress chief Pardeep Chhabra said the hardship caused to the common man because of the decision is a key poll issue for the party..
“This decision is anti-public. Have you seen a businessman or an industrialist in a queue? No and you will only find common man standing in long queues from morning till noon just to get Rs 2,500,” said Chhabra.
Among the common issues that all party candidates will raise during their campaigns, demonetisation is on top.
Many city traders praised the decision, but asked not to be identified on remarks that it was hurting their business.
“I agree this is a good decision as it is giving sleepless nights to the black money holders. But it is giving sleepless nights to us common people as well because there is no money,” said a trader who deals in fabric.
He added, “We know how people have to stand in long queues and still they don’t get enough money. It has been eight days now and we have not even been able to earn even one-third of what we normally earn.”
Chairman of the pro-BJP Chandigarh Beopar Mandal, Charanjiv Singh said, “Our business has been affected but we feel that when the new currency will be in circulation, it will revive. The demonetisation issue may benefit the BJP because it is a step to check the black money holders.”
A BJP mandal pradhan (block-level party worker) said “In the coming week, the BJP’s fate in civic polls will be clear.”
UT Election Commissioner Rakesh Mehta said he was hopeful of a “clean” election this time.
“I am hopeful that after this demonetisation, political players will not be able to peddle huge amounts of cash, liquor, sarees or anything which they give in kind. Squads would be constituted to check any kind of flow of anything to the voters,” said Mehta.
One councillor said he had hastily divided a part of the Rs 15 lakh he had set aside for the campaign among his family members, but did not know what to do with the remainder.
He conceded it would not be possible to distribute “freebies” such as cash or liquor, this time. Campaign donations to candidates are expected to dry up, too.