How BJP turned “flop demonetisation” in its ultimate gain

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Kunwar Prithvi Singh Chauhan
Part time journalist, full-time observer. Editor-in-Chief at The Indian Wire. I cover updates related to business and startups.

Ever since demonetization was announced on 8th November by the Prime Minister of India, it has been one of the topics for discussion for the masses. The government has not stopped taking credit for the move ever since and the opposition has not stopped blaming the government for a move which disrupted people’s lives for days.

For the first time since November 2016, Reserve Bank of India has spoken on demonetisation. Yesterday, in first such move, the central bank released the data around the move and it has raised some serious questions on the success of demonetization, as the government strongly admits.

According to figures launched by the RBI yesterday, at the time of demonetization, currency notes of denomination 500 and 1000 had a total value of ₹15.44 lakh crores. Out of the complete stock, notes worth ₹16,000 crores did not return back to RBI. The central statistical department of India has estimated India’s total Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in FY 2016-17 to be 151.84 lakh crores. If the figures of the central statistical department are taken into consideration, that means, 0.1% of the total GDP was termed as illegal black money, which did not return back. However, to hit on that 0.1%, the government decided to scrap off 1% of its total GDP.

Coming to the verdict, if targeting black money was the prime goal of demonetization, then it seems to have failed big time. The government might argue on the basis of unaccounted transactions which took place in accounts during that time, and which are being investigated, however, that might take months and years of time to reach a conclusion. We might yet again consider those figures when the government officially announces them, however, there are very sleek possibilities of getting something substantial from that as Indians are known for their jugaad and millions of people made use of the loopholes which emerged at the time of demonetization to convert their black money into pure white. Bank accounts of many poor people were funded with as much as ₹2.5 lakh by such black money holders, only to be withdrawn days later.

Also, the way situation post demonetization was handled, created a lot of disturbance in normal people’s lives. Poor people sacrificed their daily wages to stand in bank lines for hours to exchange the little amount of money they had (there are cases when daily-wage labours stood for 4-5 hours, sacrificed their day at work, just to exchange 1-2 notes of demonetized currency). Though the government had given a window till 31st December to exchange the notes, the sudden announcement made everyone afraid, especially, the ones who survive on less than 1-2 thousand rupees for the whole month.

Indians were never known to be patient. And to add to that, government’s ever-changing statements and conditions post demonetization made it even more horrible. The ever-changing limit of daily withdrawal, daily exchanges did test the patience of poor and middle-class people at times. Many marriage functions were called off (Marriages in Hindu tradition are halted for four months every year and they start 11 days after Diwali, the time when demonetization was announced) and many middle-class families postponed their vacation plans. However, they took all of that, hoping that some miracle was waiting for them in future. They thought that the rich-poor gap will get wiped off due to demonetization and they will have a better standard of lives. They expected that black money holders will soon be in jail for their life and no one will ever again think of exploiting the rights of common people for their use.

The whole scenario gave a big boost to BJP. Demonetization might have come at a wrong time for the common people, as the time right after Diwali is a peak season for festivals and marriages, however, the timing could not get any better for BJP. With elections in 5 states including Uttar Pradesh in sight, BJP cashed the opportunity big time and demonetization was used as a huge weapon to win the elections. Uttar Pradesh was a big milestone and BJP was aware of the same.

One of the things which happened because of demonetization was that the support base of BJP saw a huge increase in numbers. BJP was always known to be a nationalist party with its saffron touch and a hinduwadi agenda. The opposition has termed it as “suit-boot ki sarkar” However, post demonetization, a huge support base of poor people, who believed demonetization took place for their betterment, shifted towards BJP and the results were visible in the elections that took place earlier this year. With the ongoing trend in BJP’s support, we will not be surprised if the party wins in 2019 as well.

Last week, while a hearing related to Gurmeet Ram Rahim‘s case, The High Court of Haryana and Punjab had lashed out on BJP saying that Narendra Modi is country’s prime minister and not of BJP. With the latest announcement by RBI, it seems pretty clear that BJP takes it the other way round. The party has been busy in gaining the number of MLAs in each state by any means along with imposing its Hinduwadi agenda (numerous lynchings in the name of gau-raksha and statements against Muslims, Mosques and Madrasas).

Though BJP seems to be on a spree to expand its base throughout the country, the common people have suffered. However, they might not get to realise that anytime soon, thanks to the billions of rupees BJP has spent on its advertising and PR.

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