Negative campaigning by the opposition parties notwithstanding, demonetisation has paid rich dividends to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP, as the party is set for landslide victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
Party leaders are now arguing that the opposition parties should take the results as a referendum on demonetization and henceforth stop talking about it on media. “Demonetization 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. Party leader and candidate from Mou, Ashok Singh supporting the claim said demonetization had no impact on India’s middle class and the rural masses and hence it was never a poll issue.
BJP’s phenomenal success in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand comes close on the heels of its victory in the civic polls in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chandigarh where the polls were held soon after demonetization. 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 let give their verdict during polls.
On November 8’ 2016, the Government of India had announced the demonetization of all Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 banknotes of the Mahatma Gandhi series. The Modi government claimed that the action would curtail the shadow economy and crackdown on the use of illicit and counterfeit cash to fund illegal activity and terrorism. The decision led to long queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal claimed the chaos at ATMs followed by the Centre’s surgical strike on high value currencies claimed around 105 lives. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had termed demonetization “organized loot and legalized plunder”, adding that it was a “monumental management failure”.
“I have over 300 staff and none of them have had any problem due to demonetization,” 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’s policy was aimed at penalizing the rich and hence they went all out supporting BJP in the poll.
“Demonetization narrowed the disparity between the poor and the rich. It was Modi’s masterstroke. We hail the decision,” said K K Pandey a sales man in Gazipur.
Modi also got applauses for demonetization from several world leaders. Lauding the PM, World Bank CEO Kristalina Georgieva said, “What India has done will be studied by other countries.”