BMC elections: Demonetisation drives parties back to planning
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap high denomination notes of Rs1,000 and Rs500 has brought a new electoral issue and an uncertainty factor to the Mumbai civic polls to be held in February 2017.mumbai Updated: Nov 22, 2016 11:36 IST
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s decision to scrap high denomination notes of Rs1,000 and Rs500 has brought a new electoral issue and an uncertainty factor to the Mumbai civic polls to be held in February 2017.
All political parties, especially the BJP, are now back on the drawing board analysing the impact of this decision across the city’s communities including the Gujarati traders, seen as their traditional vote bank.
Set to contest the BMC polls solo, the BJP has been banking on the city’s second and third largest communities, the Gujaratis and North Indians besides its middle-class Maharashtrian vote bank to shore up its tally in the 227-member civic corporation. The party strategy was to reach out to all communities including the urban poor since it is expected poor show from minorities and the traditional Marathi manoos vote bank of ally Shiv Sena.
“It was a given that we would be backed in big numbers by Gujaratis and North Indians in the polls. Now, we have to wait and watch because the decision has affected traders and businessmen including small retailers, wholesalers, small and medium enterprises besides vegetable vendors, taxi drivers, largely North Indians. We will now have to analyse how and if this decision will impacts us. A survey on the issue is likely,’’ admitted a senior state BJP functionary.
He, however, added that the party’s initial estimate was that demonetisation would give it dividends from non-traditional voters of the party including the urban poor and perhaps even the Konkani Marathi manoos, (the Sena voter) who no longer would have a quibble that the BJP favoured Gujaratis. “In a queue of 25 people, not more than 3-4 will complain about the decision. The common people as well as the poor have understood the rationale better than political observers and will back the PM in this drive. We think our win in these elections will be on the back of a huge support of our non-traditional voters,’’ said Sunil Karjatkar, BJP , organisation secretary.
The relations between the BJP and the vocal trading community seems to have come a full circle since 2014 when the latter backed it in the elections and the party responded by scrapping Local Body Tax (LBT).
“The industry across the state has been hit by nearly 80% and it could take as many as three years for the situation to be normal. The Centre seems to be threatening only traders with consequences when we are not the black money hoarders. Yes, it will have an impact on local polls,’’ said Dipen Agarwal, executive president of Federation of Associations of Maharashtra (FAM).
Parties like the Shiv Sena and the Congress have been quick to turn demonetisation into a campaign issue. Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, who has said the step is affecting common man, is now looking at wooing Gujarati traders as a delegation of retail traders met Thackeray on Sunday. Congress, in the meanwhile, is also hoping to revive its chances by making note ban, a number one campaign talking point.
“This issue will have an impact on polls but I can’t say for sure to what extent. In my opinion, no one is happy with the decision, the least of all the Gujarati and Marwari traders and the vendors, hawkers. Both these segments will get squeezed as the economy heads for a slow down,’’ said Congress city chief Sanjay Nirupam, who has initiated ‘Note pe charcha’ discussions from Tuesday.