Demonetisation was designed to benefit BJP

Political circles in Gujarat, Maharashtra have been asking if BJP printed money for itself during demonetisation and whether co-operatives were used as a pawn in the strife between Jaitley and Shah

Photo courtesy: social media
Photo courtesy: social media

Sujata Anandan

As more and more skeletons come tumbling out of the cupboard of the BJP, but more particularly its president Amit Shah, Batukbhai Vala (name changed on request) crows in satisfaction that he had been right all along.

Two days before demonetisation, Batukbhai, a trader in various goods including textiles and pulses, had got wind of some unusual activity in the markets in Ahmedabad and Surat, including on a large scale by jewellers and gold merchants. When Narendra Modi made the sudden announcement of banning Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes within four hours from midnight on November 8, 2016, things fell into place for Batukbhai.

“The move was never as secret as it seemed,” he was always convinced. “Those close to Shah had wind of what was coming. There were deposits in the Ahmedabad District Co-operative Bank (of which Shah is a member and was a chairman once upon a time) not just for five days after demonetisation but from two-three days before. Those close to Shah and other BJP functionaries salvaged a good deal of their black money. I always knew it was a 70-30 deal,” he says.

The recent revelations by the Indo Asian News Service based on a RTI application that the ADCB collected Rs 750 crore in five days after the demonetization on November 8, 2016, therefore comes as no surprise to Batukbhai. On the contrary, he thinks the figure is conservative and could amount to ten times as much.

Batukbhai has been affiliated to the BJP in the past and is still well connected within the party. Most of his friends are similarly traders and small merchants and also affiliated to the BJP. He says it is this affiliation to the party in the home state of Modi and Shah that has ruined most of them. “The Congress may have had doh number ka paisa (unaccounted money) in some amount. But there was no compulsion on them to deposit in the banks controlled by the BJP. They may have lost some money or even managed to convert substantial amounts. But everyone associated with the BJP lost substantial sums because there was compulsion on them to deposit at particular banks and deposit at the commission stated. We all lost a lot of money.”

If Batukbhai is to be believed, the BJP leadership in Gujarat - and the country – had a measure of all their donors and affiliates and there was no escape from Big Brother. Even so, they may have been selective, rescuing some and throwing others to the Income Tax wolves.

“You cannot fathom how they have ruined a whole generation of us here in just a few months. We are still reeling. Vasuli toh bahut dur ki baat hai (recovery is a long way off).”

“Everyone associated with the BJP lost substantial sums because they had to deposit at particular banks” 

However, not all co-operative banks in the country were offered such generous terms by the Reserve Bank of India which clamped down on the deposits at these banks five days after demonetisation. But, according to former Maharashtra chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who hails from a state where co-operative institutions are the backbone of the Congress, that may have been because of internal strife within the BJP. Although the demonetisation move may have caught even the then Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley by surprise, Chavan and other Congress leaders believe he quickly jumped into the act to deny funds to co-operative banks.

For a long time Congress and Nationalist Congress Party leaders who controlled these banks in Maharashtra and had been in a running battle with the BJP with regard to minimum support prices for farmers, who formed the bulk of the depositors at these banks, thought the move might have been aimed at breaking their stranglehold over these banks. But it gradually dawned on them that Jaitley’s move was actually targeted at Shah and his control of the co-operative sector in Gujarat.

“You must see those videos in possession of Yatin Oza,” says Batukbhai. “You will be left in no doubt about what has been underfoot.” Oza is a former BJP MLA, now with the Aam Aadmi Party, said to be an early mentor to the young Amit Shah. He is said to have written a letter in the early days to Modi warning him of what was afoot and even today claims his videos have captured the exchange of black money at more than one co-operative bank in Gujarat. If his claims are true, Modi was clearly in the know of things right from the start.

Jaitley’s move to stop co-op banks from exchanging cash was targeted at Shah’s control of co-operatives

It also explains why the BJP today seems to have more money than any other political party. Add to it the claims of Maharashtra Navnirman Sena president Raj Thackeray who, at a leadership conclave held by a leading television channel, suggested that the BJP in power had printed money exclusively for itself before demonetising the old notes and that is why today is the richest political party in the country.

It could also explain why the ADCB had ready cash to exchange while all other banks, including co-operative banks, were falling short weeks after demonetisation. So now the BJP may not even need the largesse of its capitalist cronies at the next elections while all other political parties will be strapped for cash.

But Chavan’s hint at a growing internal strife within the BJP, particularly among the top three, more particularly between Shah and Jaitley, also explains why Modi has cut Jaitley out of the picture so swiftly, not even waiting for him to recover from a kidney transplant when he had had no problems with Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj similarly taking sick leave for the same ailment.

Two days after Demonetisation co-operative banks were stopped from exchanging notes by a RBI order. A statement was also issued that they suspected the co-operative banks were highly corrupt and the money they were exchanging was unaccounted for when at least in Maharashtra these were mostly farmers’ deposits and those of seed and fertiliser traders. But Congress leaders believe the action by Jaitley was aimed at Shah who has wide control over the co-operative sector in Gujarat. It was an attempt to deny him funds, cut off the financing of co-operatives and collapse the sector. He did not succeed in Gujarat though co-operative banks in other state’s became sufferers by default.

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Published: 28 Jun 2018, 8:30 AM