3 reasons why Modi and Amit Shah believe demonetisation will work
They think it could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
During the national executive meeting held in Delhi on January 6-7, a BJP executive member asked an indirect question which was on the mind of several others. He said: "Due to some decisions (read demonetisation), the interests of our core votebank (middle class, businessmen) are being hurt.”
Pat came the terse reply from BJP president Amit Shah: “You don’t worry. The constituency of our votebank is changing.”
This was not the first time doubt over the government's decision to demonetise old currency notes was raised in closed-door meetings. A month ago, in a meeting with Uttar Pradesh MPs, questions were raised about the noteban drive and how it may hurt the party’s electoral prospects.
Even then Shah’s reply was equally terse. He said: “You don’t have to worry about it. Just make sure that the benefit of the decision taken by the government percolates down to the last voter.”
You don’t have to be a soothsayer to see the writing on the wall.
The Narendra Modi government (read Modi and Amit Shah) is confident that the gamble they have played with demonetisation as the core of the BJP's political push, along with the surgical strike, will benefit them electorally.
So what makes the Modi-Shah duo so confident about the winnability of the drive? There are three main reasons behind this confidence.
1) Carving a new votebank: Move over Hindu-Muslim, OBC-Dalits, backward-forward caste combinations. The new war is on and it is between rich-middle class vs poor and very poor. And the government is firmly on the side of the latter.
So confident has been PM Modi about his new-found voting constituency that if you carefully analyse all his speeches after November 8, one phrase which was repeated most often, apart from “people will have difficulty for some time” was “ever since this demonetisation has been implemented, rich are not able to sleep without the help of sleeping pills, whereas my poor brothers and sisters are sleeping like logs.”The BJP top brass was clear that demonetisation was a “patriotic” decision under the garb of an economic one. (Photo: India Today)
A senior BJP leader in the know how said that what the Opposition was not able to understand was that this was not an economic decision but pitched as a war between black money hoarders and the poor people who have been wronged by them.
This is the reason why, despite Herculean efforts by the ramshackle coalition of opposition parties, they were not able to dent the BJP and PM Modi politically. The poor saw Modi on their side and he was their new cheerleader.
The BJP leader said: “I know that the poor also suffered but they also saw that their 'oppressor', the rich man, was suffering much more. The poor have been suffering all their life, so they are in a comfortable zone, but the rich man is not. And the only thing to remember here is that the poor vote with a gusto the rich don’t have.”
2) Demonetisation as a poll plank: There is crystal clarity in the top echelon of the BJP, that whether they want to or not, there is no escaping the demonetisation gauntlet.
And this is the reason why they have accepted this fait-accompli, and are spearheading it aggressively as their own poll plank - one of the two big decisions of this government. A BJP leader said: "There is no escaping this and that is why we have made this a poll issue, to pre-empt the opposition parties.”
With the PM continuing to harp on about the poor and downtrodden, they feel it could well turn out to be a blessing in disguise.
3) Demonetisation with patriotic tadka: One thing was evident from the outset. The BJP top brass was clear that demonetisation was a “patriotic” decision under the garb of an economic one. And the decision was sold as one necessary to weed out the scourge of black money and rid the country of black marketers, free hoarders thriving under past political patronage and crushing the poor - but no more. The war cry was borrowed from George Bush Jr - either you are with the government or you are with the black money hoarders.
The BJP brass is confident that given the complex narrative it has been able to weave around demonetisation and by making it poor-centric, it could well turn out to be one of the biggest political masterstrokes in recent times.