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'Did You Mind the Inconvenience Faced in Our Fight to Curb Corruption……..'

VVP Sharma @vvemuri

Updated: November 22, 2016, 1:49 PM IST
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'Did You Mind the Inconvenience Faced in Our Fight to Curb Corruption……..'
Security personnel stand in queues to withdraw cash from ATMs in New Delhi on Wednesday. (Image: PTI)
Two weeks since India’s midnight tryst with demonetization.

We still don’t know if we collectively took a step forward or backward. The only thing we know is that never have our steps so decisively led to banks and their ATMs, insistently, consistently, day or night, dawn or dusk. We depend on hope like never before; the hope of seeing our own money once again in our hands.

The question is not whether demonetization is good or bad because good or bad, it cannot be reversed. The question is how long will cashless-ness prevail. It cannot go on like this forever.

That’s a general worry. Prime Minister Narendra Modi also shares this worry with his party, though a slightly different worry.

Will the situation normalise at least by the time the Election Commission announces the elections to assembly in five states? The BJP has been anxious about the sentiments of the people in Uttar Pradesh in particular – the largest of the five states where elections are imminent. The stakes are the highest in UP.

Local party leaders are informing Delhi that the no one is overtly criticizing demonetization in principle, but things are not actually bright:

1.The poorest of the poor are not unhappy with the announcement; they have nothing to lose, not even a 500-rupee note.
2.The middle class in the urban and rural areas was initially circumspect but it soon gave way to affirmation.
3.After two weeks, the patience is running a bit thin.
4.Unlike the metros, big cities and towns of UP including Lucknow still do not have adequate new notes in banks and ATMs.
5.The situation in the rural areas is worst. The rabi crop may just fail. Marriages are being re-scheduled. People are unable to pay fees of wards studying outside the state. Business is at a standstill. Daily wage earners are full of spare time.
6.The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are already in election mode.

The BJP has to counter all these factors if it has to win UP. And quite a section within the state BJP is confused. What is the party’s poll plank? Nationalism-post-Uri? Ram Janmabhoomi? Demonetisation? It is as if the attack on black money has subsumed all these issues! There is no talk of Kairana, no beef, no ghar-wapsi, no love-jihad, no Ram temple, no Uri, no strikes. The talk is only about money. Party cadres who micro-manage select campaigns for the BJP are in a quandary. They look up to their state-level leaders guidance. But they are clueless too.

They ask the central leadership: Has polarization just changed its marker? The standard, well-tested mechanism of corralling voters through religious polarization on the one hand; polarization on the basis of the colour of money – black versus white – on the other. And both topped by the icing of nationalism.

Modi will clarify. He is leaving enough clues that suggest he is on his way to resolving the party’s doubt. He has talked to his party leaders in a closed-door meeting where he takes on the opposition: Whose side are u on, the hoarders or those who are cleaning up? He is getting emotional inside the party meeting and at rallies in UP. He is not talking in Parliament. He is addressing what he senses is the bigger parliament – the people at large. Directly. He asks the parliament of people for their opinion on demonetization.

He asks people 10 questions which he wants the people to answer on his app. They range from the rhetorical (Do you think that black money exists in India; Do you think demonetization will help in curbing black money, corruption & terrorism; Do you believe some anti-corruption activists are now actually fighting in support of black money, corruption & terrorism) to the leading (Do you think the evil of corruption and black money needs to be fought and eliminated; Demonetization will bring real estate, higher education, healthcare in common man's reach) to the suggestive (Overall, what do you think about the government's moves to tackle black money; Do you have any suggestions, ideas or insights you would like to share with PM Narendra Modi).

At the half-way mark in the questionnaire, comes this, at no. 5: What do you think of the Modi government's move of banning old Rs. 500 & Rs. 1000 notes? And towards the end, comes this, the question engaging the entire country today:

Did you mind the inconvenience faced in our fight to curb corruption, black money, terrorism and counterfeiting of currency?

The people’s answer -- a simple yes or no -- to this particular question ranking no. 8 out of 10 will define the BJP’s strategy not just for the assembly elections, but for much more in the future.

First Published: November 22, 2016, 1:49 PM IST

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