Prime Minister Narendra Modi has turned the opposition’s negative campaigning against demonetisation on its head to lead the BJP to a landslide victory in Uttar Pradesh on Saturday.
BJP leaders are now reiterating what had been arguing all along -- that opposition parties should take the results as a referendum on demonetisation and stop criticising it.
“Demonetisation has given sleepless nights to opposition leaders including Rahul Gandhi and robbed the shine on his face,” BJP president Amit Shah had said in his last election rally in Uttar Pradesh.
The BJP’s phenomenal success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand comes close on the heels of its victories in civic polls in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chandigarh where the polls were held soon after the demonetisation exercise.
In all these elections, the Congress-led opposition had charged that the government’s ban on high-value banknotes led to hardships for the poor and that the people will give their verdict during polls.
On November 8, the Modi government had announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs. 1000 banknotes, describing the move as a surgical strike on illicit and counterfeit cash. The decision led a severe cash crunch and sparked long queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash.
The opposition had also said that the chaos at ATMs had claimed around 105 lives. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had termed demonetisation an “organised loot and legalised plunder”, adding that it was a “monumental management failure”.
But voters in Uttar Pradesh did not agree.
“I have over 300 staff and none of them have had any problem due to demonetisation,” said Rajesh Shah, one of Varanasi’s leading saree manufacturer and a die-hard Modi fan. In fact, he said, the poor for the first time felt that a government policy was aimed at penalising the rich and hence they went all out supporting BJP in the poll.
“Demonetisation narrowed the disparity between the poor and the rich. It was Modi’s masterstroke. We hail the decision,” said KK Pandey a salesman in Gazipur.
A BJP leader and candidate from Mou, Ashok Singh, said the note-ban had no impact on India’s middle class and the rural masses and hence it was never a poll issue.
Modi also earned praise from several world leaders.
Lauding the PM, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva said, “What India has done will be studied by other countries.”