Day 37 Demonetisation Countdown: BJP Worried as Opposition Scores, Advani Wonders Whether He Should Quit LS
NEW DELHI: Daggers were not just drawn, but visibly sharpened as Parliament moved to its last day on Firday, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi into the last fraction of his 50 days to resolve the demonetisation crisis that shows no signs of abating.
Worry was visible on the faces of BJP leaders who have been quietly expressing worry about the impact of the crisis on the votes in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh that will be facing the electorate early 2017. Matters were not helped when octogenerarian former Deputy PM LK Advani wondered whether he should quit Parliament because of the disruptions within. He urged Home Minister Rajnath Singh to speak with the Opposition, saying that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee would have most certainly talked to the Opposition leaders and ensured peace in the House.
Several BJP MPs claim to have expressed their worry about the forthcoming elections in UP to the party top brass. Meetings have been held to discuss the impact on the poor voters, described probably most eloquently by BSP leader Mayawati outside Parliament today where she said that the impact has been most severe on three categories, “the poor, the kisan and the mazdoor.” These are not the sections that are being addressed by PM Modi in his demand for a cashless economy, where he has been pitching directly for PayTm and Reliance as well through advertisments.
BJP sources said that it was impossible to do anything but praise PM Modi as the Ministers spent considerable time doing in every Cabinet meeting. Haryana has now placed the scanner on its officials, directing them to spend one day a week without cash, and submit evidence to the Chief Minister to prove the same. “No one can question the PM,” the sources said in what was indicative of the fact that the ruling party members are also now losing hope of a reversal in the demonetisation tide.
The BJP is worried about rumours being spread by Opposition leaders openly, that a top leader of the party has been named as a recipient by a man arrested in Gujarat for large sums of unaccounted money. The fact that this leader has fallen silent of late, is being used by Opposition MPs to point fingers and laugh openly at the BJPs discomfort. As a senior leader said, “there is no evidence as yet with us, but this is what we have heard.”
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s effort to make a statement in Parliament against what he says is an expose of corruption by the PM Modi has been repeatedly blocked now by the BJP in the Lok Sabha. In what has become an intense ding dong battle of hard politics, the Opposition and the treasury benches have been at loggerheads for the entire winter session. This claim by the Congress with Rahul Gandhi, at a press conference, maintaining that he wants to provide the evidence of this corruption to Parliament has touched a raw nerve with the BJP MPs swinging from the “he is making a joke of himself” response to a more cautionary “let us see what there is, if anything at all.”
The Opposition has backed the Congress leader on this issue, and 16 political parties will be going in delegation with him to President Pranab Mukherjee tomorrow. The BJP has stalled all discussion in the Lok Sabha with the Opposition pointing out that this was the first incident in the history of independent India that the party in power was blocking debate on its own decision.
The BJP that had expected PM Modi to sort out the chaos is now worried, as 37 days later there is no sign of the crisis being resolved. In fact quite the opposite, with the informal sector being virtually crippled in the process. As the CPI(M) has said in an editorial in its Peoples’ Democracy, the “financial Pokhran” being hailed by the RSS has indeed amounted to a nuclear attack on Indian citizens.
The Income tax raids over the last two weeks have seized Rs 160 crore new notes from different parts of the country, according to one estimate. The Opposition leaders pointed out that this just the beginning, and as the CPI(M) pointed out, the country is now witness to a massive money laundering operation. “Instead of curbing black money what Modi’s demonetisation has achievd is to get large amounts of black money coverted into white money. It has opened new avenues of corruption in the financial system. Corrupt bank officials are conniving with money launderers to make the exchange of notes a large-scale scam. The government has been clueless on how to check this money laundering through the banks using various devices,” a Peoples Democracy editorial stated.
The Opposition has dismissed PM Modi’s call for a cashless economy as a farce. The editorial stated this in clear words with, “In a mockery of the urban and rural poor and the vast masses involved in the informal economy, Modi and the BJP are propagating a digital cash transaction system. The “cashless economy” slogan is being pushed to cover up the fact that the government has miserably failed to produce adequate amounts of new currency notes. The “cashless” drive is thus a bid to divert attention from the currency disaster facing the country.”
Instead over a 100 people have died. Micro, small and medium industry has taken a hard blow with the work force badly affected. Reverse migration has been registered in large numbers from Gujarat and Punjab, both states where the gold and hosiery businesses have been adversely impacted.
The BJP is now trooping out of Parliament with worry writ large on the members faces. Advani’s strong statement reflects this, with party leaders in UP openly carping about the voters growing disaffection as a result of demonetisaton. As a senior journalist summed up, “Parliament ends tomorrow with advantage Opposition.”