BJP panel on demonetisation: Time is running out for the party

Feedback that the decision may boomerang if the currency crunch does not ease soon has the ruling party worried.


As the currency crisis brought on by the government’s decision to withdraw Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes on November 8 shows no signs of easing, the disquiet in the Bharatiya Janata Party as it anxiously watches the situation has been growing. And now, it has been accentuated by the report of a panel it had set up to obtain feedback from the ground. According to the findings, the demonetisation decision could boomerang for the government if the situation is not normalised within the next few days.

Although the committee of chartered accountants was tasked with gathering feedback from different parts of the country, its special focus was on states such as Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, where Assembly elections are due early next year. The committee was set up by BJP President Amit Shah soon after Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the demonetisation announcement, and it submitted its report late on Monday, party officials said on condition of anonymity.

“The committee has reported that the decision will work to the extent the government is able to stem the cash crisis quickly,” said a senior BJP leader. “Otherwise it will backfire and the party will have to bear the brunt.”

No victory posters

The anxiety is also evident in Shah’s inability to make party MPs put up hoardings across the country hailing the “surgical strike on black money”. According to the officials, the BJP president had asked all party MPs, especially those from the poll-bound states, to launch a massive poster campaign clubbing the government’s war on black money and the surgical strikes across the Line of Control in late September. The order, however, appears to have been met with apathy on the part of the MPs, who fear a major mood swing among the people as they are getting tired of standing in long queues to exchange their old currency notes.

“Barring a few MPs, most have simply ignored the instructions of the party president,” said a BJP general secretary who did not want to be identified. “Neither have the hoardings come up, nor have party MPs shown the courage to go to the people and highlight the achievements of the government.”

He added, “We have entered a dark alley, and we are not sure whether there will be light at the end of it.”

Though the BJP’s Porbandar MP Vithal Radadia is the only party member so far to have come out openly against the government’s move, in private conversations, most party leaders do not have the same confidence that the prime minister has in the decision. According to a report in The Hindu, Radadia said the demonetisation decision would adversely affect the farm sector and all agriculture marketing produce committees would have to stay shut for at least two months unless corrective measures were taken immediately.

Clearly, the initial exhilaration in the BJP rank and file over what was seen as a masterstroke by Modi has started fading, and it may go down further as the patience of the common man starts wearing thinner and the Opposition attacks get fiercer.

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