December 13, 2016 5:15:19 am
AS THE Centre keeps shifting its narrative on demonetisation from a fight against black money to cashless economy to less cash and now digital transactions, there is an increasing disquiet among a section of BJP MPs who have started worrying about reports of distress and increasing public impatience and resentment.
At least five BJP MPs spoke to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity and each admitted that there has been a tangible fall in the initial excitement over withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. The mood, they concurred, is slowly giving way to distress due to the shortage of currency, fruitless lines at ATMs, increasing distrust of banks and the adverse impact on the local economy.
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The MPs admitted that there is concern over ground reports that labourers, weavers, vegetable vendors, small shopkeepers and small-scale industries are facing trouble due to the ongoing cash crunch, and that there are real threats of job losses in other sectors, too.
BJP sources said that party leaders from different states, especially poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, have started expressing their apprehensions on the demonetisation process in internal meetings and, as a result, the leadership has decided to wait for some time before finalising the election strategy.
“The latest argument — that demonetisation paves the way towards a digital economy — is hard to sell (to the electorate),” one MP said. “There are still issues with electricity and mobile connectivity. How can we ask shopkeepers or small businessmen to go digital?”
The party, however, is optimistic and is banking on the Prime Minister’s credibility and people’s faith in him. A party leader from UP said, “People have not lost faith in him (Modi). It’s not the BJP that they trust; they believe Narendra Modi means good for the country.”
Reports that most of the notes withdrawn could return to banks have also disappointed party MPs. Parliamentarians pointed out that the initial claim was that the money that would not return would lead to investments in popular welfare schemes and lead to higher spending on infrastructure. “The common people welcomed the move, hoping it would make their lives better,” one MP said. But there have been many reports in rural areas that the affluent has different ways to convert their money, he added.
A senior party MP from Bihar said: “A section of the party feels that the exercise is not getting its expected outcome. They have apprised top leaders about these apprehensions.”
Asked about the impact of demonetisation, another MP said, “Only Modiji knows.”
Meanwhile, maintaining a wait-and-watch policy, the party leadership has urged state leaders and MPs to work on the promotion of digital banking and the idea of a less-cash economy. They have been asked to organise training camps for traders and farmers. But at a meeting of Yuva Morcha activists in Delhi, party workers were wary of people’s reaction to such moves at a time when they are distressed over the cash crunch.
So the campaign material released so far avoids mention of demonetisation and instead focuses on “parivartan” in UP, the songs deal with issues of law and order (“goonda raj”), closure of small industries, security for women, and land grabbing.
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