By launching a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s surprise step to demonetize Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has generated fresh ripples in the political waters of the country.
Most importantly, Kejriwal has stolen a march over other Opposition parties by raising serious questions against the demonetization move, even though it appears to be an attempt to gain political mileage out of growing resentment amongst people due to unavailability of cash at ATMs across the country, even four days after the PM’s announcement.
The ruling NDA government and the BJP — who continue to be busy thumping their chests — have perhaps missed the point that a bold, historical move by the PM to clean out fake currency notes and curb black money generation from the country stands to be jeopardized due to inadequate planning to implement it. The banking sector has clearly been caught ill-prepared to deal with this monumental exercise even as the common man’s patience continues to be tested due to non-availability of cash to meet daily needs.
While launching a scathing attack on Modi and his demonetization move on Saturday morning, Kejriwal sent a volley of three questions to the PM and simultaneously leveled charges that the government had selectively leaked its plan much before 8 November.
But how valid are his questions and charges against Modi?
By levelling charges without valid proofs, Kejriwal’s allegations seem nothing less than another political rant, even if they are true.
It’s no different from what other politicians like Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati or Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi are saying. They didn’t lose any opportunity to slam Modi soon after the announcement to ban Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes.
But, Kejriwal has gone a step further as the present chaotic situation of ‘no cash, shut ATMs and long queues at banks’ have helped him fuel public anger.
The aam aadmi – the common man — the working class — the consumer – is frustrated and angry of waiting in long queues for hours outside ATMs to withdraw their hard earned money, that too with a cap of Rs 2000. Many have not succeeded even once in their attempt to withdraw money so far. Rs 100 currency note has done a 'Houdini' act and vanished from public domain.
“There is severe discomfort with people on street. Those with pressing needs are suffering by standing long hours in the queue to get just Rs 2000, which may be lesser than their requirement. It’s all due to improper implementation; 86 percent of the currency comprising Rs 1000 and Rs 500 notes has been withdrawn out of the system and no proper replacement is in place,” said economist Professor Surajit Mazumdar.
“Government’s justifications reflect certain biases as well. Those having black money, do not keep it stored; rather it’s circulated and invested. In contrary, it’s large number of people from poor and middle class who keep cash at home for day-to-day living and contingency. Now, they are facing crisis in getting their hard earned money exchanged. All these factors are leading to public outrage,” he added.
While the opposition as usual is busy using the negative public sentiment in its favour, the ultimate sufferer is the common man, who voted the BJP to power. No one is trying to mitigate their problem; instead politicians from opposite camps are busy in ‘making hay while the sun shines.’
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in a hurriedly called emergency press conference on Saturday afternoon appealed people to be wary of rumours and baseless reports on social media. “Somebody spread a rumour on salt and this led to such chaos. There is sufficient amount of salt in all states… Some politicians have made it a point to raise issues for the sake of opposing… ATM machines are being re-calibrated to adjust to the new notes. The re-calibration could not have been done in advance to maintain secrecy.”
Though, political and economic analysts, housewives and common man had initially hailed the ‘surgical strike’ of Modi against fake currency notes and black money, the immediate effect of this master-stroke seems to have boomeranged.
The government failed in the implementation of the demonitisation move. It also failed to realize that the common man has become its biggest immediate victim. This was obviously not the objective of the PM in his operation against black money.
“It was a brilliant idea of the PM, but due to bureaucratic failure, the idea seems to be suffering. Improper implementation has led to chaos, panic, fear and anger in public. Were the planners not aware of the capacity of ATMs and daily circulation of cash? Forget what Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee or Arvind Kejriwal said. If people fail to get cash in hand within 10 days, it’s going to be disastrous for Modi government, as public may go hostile,” quipped political analyst Professor MD Nalapat.
“This is a do-or-die measure for the BJP. If it fails to address the problem that the 125 crore population across the country has been facing for the last four days, the party may come down to single-digit by the next election,” he said.
“There is no doubt about the PM’s demonitisation move, but how long the common public has to bear the brunt of improper planning and poor implementation? The Opposition may be fueling public sentiment, but if the chaos continues, there may be a riot-like situation on streets soon. It’s the improper post-announcement planning that is providing fodder to the Opposition. If this situation persists for another 10 days, besides public outrage, our economy may collapse,” added chartered accountant Abhishek Aneja.