Demonetisation will be the BJP’s key theme of an upcoming publicity blitzkrieg in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, where its three major rival parties have been forced to slow down political activities ever since the centre’s withdrawal of two high-value banknotes last week.
If the ruling Samajwadi Party, the Congress and former chief minister Mayawati’s BSP criticised the BJP-led Narendra Modi government invalidating Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes from November 9, two of them have either cancelled or deferred campaign programmes in the country’s most populous state that will elect a new assembly early next year.
The saffron party has launched 75 video vans to know “UP’s Mann ki Baat”, which the BJP now thinks will help its strategists analyse the public mood. The BJP could even ask its cadre to undertake a quick survey on the issue, sources said.
Four Parivartan Raths the party has rolled out in UP are also playing up the union government’s “fight against black money”. BJP strategists are not unduly worried about people queuing up outside banks and ATMs to get new currency.
If anything, the party is hoping the political criticism over the demonetisation will lead to a polarisation in its favour by positioning itself as a force keen to fight black money, terror funding, hawala and fake currency.
Before November 8, the NDA government at the Centre was dealing with a political onslaught over the pre-poll promise of bringing back black money and depositing Rs 15 lakh in the bank account of every citizen. The attack was expected to intensify in poll-bound states, including UP. However, by scrapping high-value banknotes, the party has tried to take the moral high ground by saying the move would cleanse politics.
“It is in public knowledge that black money was majorly used in politics,” state BJP general secretary Vijay Bahadur Pathak said. “The decision will result in cleaner elections and politics. It is a historic decision by the prime minister.”
While the UP government has appealed to the Centre to relax the deadline of demonetisation in “public interest”, the BSP has dubbed the move as “anti-poor”.
Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav’s SP is now reworking the dates for a second leg of its ‘Vikas se Vijay Rath Yatra’ that was scheduled to start from Jhansi on Monday to cover the Bundelkhand region.
“We will release the revised schedule of the ‘rath yatra’ in a day or two,” SP spokesperson and cabinet minister Rajendra Chowdhary told HT. The campaign to highlight the achievements of the Akhilesh regime, which was flagged off by SP patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav from Lucknow on November 3, will restart by end-November.
The party has two other important events lined up: the November 22 birthday celebrations of SP founder-president president Mulayam, who is to turn 78. A day after that event in Lucknow, the top leader was to launch of his poll campaign from Ghazipur in eastern UP.
The birthday celebrations are now expected to be low-key. The Akhilesh-headed Janeshwar Mishra Trust, which decided to organise the birthday bash, has just one billboard outside its office congratulating ‘netaji’ (Mulayam) on his 78th birthday.
As for the Congress, its move for early distribution of party tickets for the 2017 assembly elections will also be delayed to the middle or end of December or even later. Initially, the Congress proposed to begin distribution of tickets by November-end or early December.
“Yes, we wanted to declare our tickets early,” said state Congress chief Raj Babbar. “But we will delay the announcement of tickets by a week or two in the wake of the demonetisation. We are concerned about people’s problems.”
He told HT that the situation “is going from bad to worse”, adding the party will begin distributing tickets “after watching the situation for some time”.
Also, there is a delay in the party’s plan to send 200 teams of Dalit leaders to reach out state-wide to nearly 8,000 villages dominated by that community.
“We are concerned about the problems the people are facing,” said a senior Congress leader. “We do not want to further upset them now. We will rework our programme.”
The Congress’ Rahul Sandesh Yatra had ended in different districts on November 10.
BJP chief Amit Shah had on Saturday said demonetisation will help the country’s economy. The decision will bring down the prices of essential commodities and make flats affordable for the common people, he added.
A day after the PM announced the decision, Union home minister Rajnath Singh, who was on a visit to western UP, was the first leader to describe the move as ‘surgical strike II’ that “will cripple terror funding”.
More union ministers and CMs of BJP-ruled states are expected to whip up patriotic fervour in poll-bound states and dub those opposing the move as “corrupt”.