The government’s surprise move to scrap the country’s two high-value banknotes may cause “a little inconvenience” to the people, but could rewrite political fortunes.
Abolition of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, as announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday, has given the BJP a talking point in next year’s assembly elections in five states. Also, the decision has the potential to blunt the opposition’s barbs against Modi on black money.
The Congress and other opposition parties have been taking jibes at Modi, reminding him of his 2014 pre-poll promise to bring back black money stashed abroad and deposit Rs 15 lakh in every citizen’s bank account if he came to power.
The BJP leaders sought to defend Modi, saying it was just a “political jumla (idiomatic expression)” during the poll campaign. But opposition leaders pounced on it to snipe at Modi and his government.
The opposition also questioned the NDA government’s commitment to eradicate corruption and black money, alleging that it was yet to show results.
Modi’s announcement on Tuesday might not silence the snipers. But it has given the BJP enough ammunition to counter them — in the immediate future, at least. Delhi unit BJP chief Satish Upadhyay fired one already when he said the step may pose a little inconvenience, but if major steps are to be taken people will have to face some inconveniences.
The move, termed by BJP president Amit Shah as a “surgical strike” on corruption and black money, is expected to bolster the party’s prospects in the assembly elections. The poll-bound states are registering a heated discourse on corruption already.
Uttar Pradesh chief minister Akhilesh Yadav recently sought to use the corruption issue — by dropping some tainted ministers from his cabinet — to endear himself to the people and outwit his family elders with whom he has been engaged in a turf war.
Allegations of corruption have been dogging the ruling dispensations in Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur, and Goa where polls are due next year. Of these states, the BJP rules only Goa.
The government’s latest move is expected to give a head start to the BJP, which already showcases the absence of scams or corruption scandals under Modi’s rule.
Shah’s surgical strike metaphor has an underlying sub-text. Tuesday’s decision coupled with the army’s September 29 surgical strikes on militant “launch pads” in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir could be a potent electoral package for the BJP in the assembly polls.
The timing couldn’t have been more appropriate for the BJP, which is facing a barrage of charges from Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and other opposition leaders over issues such as the Centre’s alleged attempt to muzzle freedom of expression and the “fake encounter” of SIMI undertrial prisoners in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh.
The opposition is preparing to corner the government on these issues when Parliament sits for the winter session from November 16. After Modi’s address to the nation, the ruling party seems better-placed to neutralise the opposition offensive in Parliament.
Modi’s crackdown on hoarders of illicit funds could also have a positive impact on prevalent electoral malpractices, which have continued despite the vigilance mechanism put in place by the Election Commission. The 2017 elections will demonstrate whether a curb on black money could check the practice of buying votes in an otherwise vibrant democracy.