The shock note ban announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has left many in his party incredibly worried about its potential adverse impact on their electoral fortunes in poll-bound states next year.
News agency Reuters, which claimed to have interviewed at least six of the saffron party’s lawmakers and a senior functionary of the BJP’s ideological parent, the RSS, said that there was a considerable disquiet among the party cadres on demonetisation.
“There is no doubt that it is difficult to convince voters that everything will be fine,” Santosh Gangwar, the junior finance minister who is leading the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh, was quoted by the news agency.
Gangwar added, “Every candidate who will be contesting polls is nervous because they feel people may not vote for the BJP … There is tension and we cannot deny it,” he said.
Such is the worry among the BJP’s senior functionaries that 28 out of 71 MPs from Uttar Pradesh reportedly met the BJP President Amit Shah as well as visited the finance minister’s office to seek solutions for the cash crunch.
This came even as the BJP spokesperson, GVL Narasimha Rao, claimed that Modi was enjoying overwhelming support despite temporary difficulties.
He said, “Party cadres are highly enthused about a big victory in upcoming elections, and if a few are apprehensive, they will realise the reality soon.”
An unnamed RSS official said that they had advised Modi days before the move to take time to prepare the ground for such a massive exercise, including setting up two new mints and expanding the banking network, and to roll it out in phases.
But, according to the RSS official, Modi decided to press ahead, and he alone would bear responsibility for its failure or success.
Last week, more than 36 BJP lawmakers, many of whom from the poll-bound states, reportedly met Shah to demand that the government send more cash to their constituencies, and quickly.
The MPs also reportedly told Shah that they did not have the courage to hold election rallies at a time when people still had to stand in line, sometimes for hours, to get money.
Jagdambika Pal, a BJP lawmaker from Uttar Pradesh who attended the meeting, told Reuters, “The situation is grim, and we cannot ignore it. It is a challenge for every BJP lawmaker to manage the situation, but we cannot do anything if there is no money in the banks.”
And those criticising note ban aren’t only confined to the BJP’s party fold. Chandrababu Naidu, the chief minister of Andhra Pradesh, was a supporter of the demonetisation move, before publicly criticising it little later. He likened the decision to national calamity.
Uttar Pradesh, Goa and Punjab are among the key five states going for assembly polls early next year. Any defeat here will spell disaster for Modi and Shah, thereby considerably weaking their hold in the party and government.