Demonetisation could prove to be BJP’s next India Shining fiasco
As the BJP claims its victory in recent polls were a referendum on demonetisation, it would do well to recall its ‘India Shining’ fiasco and avoid interpreting silence as approval
When millions of countrymen and women, young, old and ailing, are lining up outside lakhs of ATMs and bank branches for hours, and crores of lesser mortals are seeing a dark future ahead, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party bigwigs are patting themselves on the back, claiming victory in by-polls in several states and local body elections in Gujarat and Maharashtra.
What the BJP is not realising is that in the last three weeks, voters in all these places, as elsewhere in India, had little time to queue up in lines outside polling booths to exercise their adult franchise. When interest in elections are receding and the Election Commission is trying to find various methods to encourage the electorate to turn up at booths, who is bothered about voting in by-elections and local bodies’ poll in such a difficult situation? In such an abnormal situation, anyone can win. And if the saffron party did well in the states ruled by it, candidates of ruling parties like Trinamool Congress and AIADMK fared equally well in their states. How, then, can these by-polls and civic body elections be termed a referendum on demonetisation, when the voters were hardly keen to listen to the promises of parties and candidates. Instead they were busy following the daily dose of fresh announcements, warnings, guidelines, concessions, tax amnesties, penalties and instructions from the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Ministry.
How can these by-polls and civic body elections be termed a referendum on demonetisation, when the voters were hardly keen to listen to the promises of parties and candidates. Instead they were busy following the daily dose of fresh announcements, warnings, guidelines, concessions, tax amnesties, penalties and instructions from the Reserve Bank of India and Finance Ministry.
Anger is mounting on demonetisation hardships
Marriages have been postponed, surgeries have been put off, patients, new-born babies and expectant mothers are dying for want of money. Poor labourers are undergoing family planning operations to get a quick ₹2,000 in cash. Hordes of daily wage earners are returning to their native places. Sowing and harvesting, which wait for none, is badly affected. Examinees––UPSC’s Civil Services exams are underway––are wasting precious study hours outside banks and ATMs. In this scenario, how many people really went to vote in these elections which have little political significance, but are being touted by the BJP as a great referendum on demonetisation.
The BJP is in the habit of making bombastic claims. Its leaders have not learnt the lesson from the mistake committed in 2004, when in January it suddenly announced that the Lok Sabha election would be held in April-May and not in September-October. The party had then claimed that the Vajpayee wave is sweeping the country as the BJP had won assembly elections in three states––––Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and newly carved out Chhattisgarh––in December 2003. The Congress could retain only Delhi.
The over-jubilant BJP tried to capitalise on the ‘victory mood’ and with the help of slogans like ‘Good Governance’ and ‘India Shining’, expected to win. When the result came on May 13, 2004, its leaders were taken completely by surprise. They had lost to none else but the Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi whom they dismissed as ‘foreigner bahu’, and who had joined hands with several regional satraps. This was the outcome of an election when the Congress had already lost two regional leaders—Mamata Banerjee and Sharad Pawar—before the 1999 Lok Sabha elections.
The BJP seems to be failing to gauge the mood of the people once again. True, the people are facing immense hardship yet they are not taking to streets or resorting to violence. This is a tribute to the people of this democratic country. But there is another factor too which is keeping the people away from protest. Everyone, from shop-keepers to salesmen, factory-owners to labourers, miners to engineers, teachers to doctors are busy making daily arrangements for cash. Anger is mounting by the day and it could be a grave error to interpret silence as approval.
Soroor Ahmed is a senior journalist based in Patna