Has BJP scored a self goal with demonetisation? (News Analysis)

Lucknow, Nov 17 (IANS) Is Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation move turning out to be a self goal for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in poll bound Uttar Pradesh?

Even as most BJP leaders here spare no opportunity to hail the “surgical strike on black money”, in private, the very same leaders are jittery of its consequences on the upcoming assembly polls.

A week after Modi announced the “highly-kept secret” on the night of November 8, BJP’s state leaders are busy calculating the pros and the cons of the decision, which many feel has sent a wrong message to a large section of the people.

“The move is being hailed as revolutionary but our real fear is that the inconvenience being caused to people could turn the tables on us,” a senior state executive member told IANS.

The unending long queues outside banks and ATMs, the news of many deaths, clashes at banks and cancellation of weddings due to shortage of the new currency are issues which are being debated by party strategists, who now fear that any more delay in replenishing the lower denomination notes and the new currency in ATMs could cost the party dearly in the 2017 polls.

Until now, the BJP felt that it was the front runner in Uttar Pradesh.

What appears to have set the alarm bells ringing in the party is the failure of farmers and the poor in getting their spiked currency exchanged for new notes.

Opposition parties, specially the ruling Samajwadi Party, are exposing the failure of the BJP in providing succour to the farmers who now have virtually no money to sow the Rabi crop, buy seeds and fertilizers, due to lack of legal tender in hand.

Many farmers have openly castigated their once “dear Modiji” for leaving them high and dry.

State Samajwadi Party chief Shivpal Singh Yadav and Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav have slammed the Prime Minister for bringing the situation to a point of no return for the farmers.

“The sorry state is that farmers who did a good harvest of Kharif are now sitting on their earnings, unable to make the best of it for the Rabi crop,” says Akhilesh Yadav.

BJP General Secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak admitted the poor and the middle class were facing problems but insisted they would soon come under control.

“There are problems. We cannot deny this. But most people are satisfied if not happy with Modi’s decision,” he told IANS.

Bravado and public posturing notwithstanding, insiders say daily reports are being sent to the national leadership for necessary recalibration.

“As things stand now, it is a grim situation and we can only hope that the rationale behind the move offsets the problems faced by people,” says a senior party MP who did not wish to be named.

Congress legislator Aaradhna Mishra says the poor and the marginalised were facing the most difficulties due to demonetisation.

“Small traders, the business class and the hard working people of the country have in one go been tainted as corrupt,” she said.

A close aide to the Chief Minister, Udayveer Singh, says the people with black money would find a way out but the poor had been hit hard.

The BJP, seemingly aware of the simmering anger, has decided to deploy its party workers to help people standing in long queues outside banks and ATMs by serving them water, tea and snacks.

They have also been asked to mingle with the restless crowd and engage in a whispering campaign on how the move was a masterstroke by Modi.

Informed sources told IANS that Modi public rally scheduled in Lucknow on December 24 has been postponed to January.

(Mohit Dubey can be contacted at mohit.d@ians.in)