The BJP’s thumping victory in the Chandigarh municipal election on December 20 led party chief Amit Shah to describe it as a “stamp of approval” for Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision. He had reasons to make that claim. BJP won almost every poll countrywide, post the note ban.
But Shah has taken a huge risk in describing election victories as endorsement of demonetisation. Any adverse outcome in the ensuing assembly elections in five states – Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur – will deny him the liberty to delink the election result and demonetisation.
Is Shah’s bravado driven by “ground reports” about an overwhelming support for demonetisation, or a misplaced confidence that had earlier seen him claim that the BJP would get two-thirds majority in Delhi and Bihar?
Demonetisation has dominated the national discourse for past two months, but can it really overshadow the feud in Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh? Or will it negate the anti-incumbency of 10 years faced by the Akali Dal-BJP government in Punjab? Will demonetisation upset the calculation of Harish Rawat in Uttarakhand who is counting on factionalism in BJP in Uttarakhand to pull off a victory? Can it prevent entry of a third player – the AAP – in Goa or help the BJP end the three term rule of the Congress in Manipur?
State elections have their own flavour, mostly decided by local issues. But demonetisation which has touched every countryman will be common to all five elections. “Local issues will dominate and demonetisation will be like background music,” says Pramod Kumar, the Director of Chandigarh-based Institute for Development and Communication. “The note recall has a moral dimension. Arvind Kejriwal’s opposition to the decision hurts his image.”
BJP leaders claim Modi has created a ‘pro-poor’ image for himself by taking an ‘anti-rich’ position. “It should benefit us in election as we pass new milestones, winning over new social groups. This is a well thought move by Modi,” a BJP general secretary told HT.
The BJP and the Congress will be in a direct contest in Uttarakhand and Manipur. Goa and Punjab will have triangular contest between NDA, Congress and AAP, and Uttar Pradesh a four-cornered fight.
Among parties who have stakes in these polls, the Congress, BSP and AAP have strongly opposed the note ban. They are counting on people’s anger against demonetisation. But both the BJP and its rivals may be overestimating the impact of demonetization.