Mumbai: Anger over the sudden demonetisation move is now not limited only to the serpentine queues outside ATMs or to the crowded counters at banks but it has become a political hot potato for the political parties to exploit for their benefit.
With the cash crisis getting worse with each passing day, in a surprise move National Democratic Alliance (NDA) ally both at the Centre and in the state Shiv Sena decided to participate in a protest march to the Rashtrapati Bhavan on Wednesday after getting a call from West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee.
The parties would apprise President Pranab Mukherjee on the incomprehensible currency crisis situation that the country plunged into soon after the dramatic abolishment of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 on the midnight of 8 November as a legal tender.
In an urgent meeting of party leaders, that was called by Shiv Sena supremo Uddhav Thackeray, the party chief reasoned that if PM Modi could share the dais with their political bete noire and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, there is no reason for them not to go with Bannerjee. Thackeray told his party members that the Trinamool Congress head was taking the step after seeing the plight of the country's citizens.
Although the Shiv Sena chief made it clear that the party is with the government's effort to tackle black money, he came down heavily on PM Modi for leaving people in the lurch with the sudden demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes. Thackeray reportedly said that instead of going behind those people with accounts in Swiss banks PM Modi pushed the country's poor into trouble. He also took potshots at the Prime Minister for leaving for Japan soon after.
"Modi did a surgical strike along the LoC and deserved praise. However, his demonetisation decision could bounce back on him," Thackeray had said earlier in a press conference last week.
Even as the party is openly going against the BJP, it did prepare a cushion for its drastic actions to keep the alliance intact.
"Mamata Banerjee and Uddhav Thackeray had a talk. This is not power and politics. It concerns the citizens of India. We have no issue to knock the door of any party for the cause of poor, needy people of India," Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut told the media.
Senior journalist and political analyst Abhay Deshpande felt that the Shiv Sena was moving on a well-thought out plan.
"Thackeray’s criticism is a clear indication that Sena is taking distance from the political consequences of Modi. Sena strategists are feeling that BJP will face the wrath of Mumbaikars during the upcoming civic elections in the 10 Municipal corporation elections," Deshpande said.
However, it is not for the first time the Shiv Sena is not on the same page with the NDA.
In 2007, the party supported Congress candidate Pratibha Patil for the office of the country's president. Citing reasons for not going with the NDA nominee, then Shiv Sena chief Balasaheb Thackeray had taken the stand that since Patil was the first woman candidate to contest the poll for the country's highest office and that she is from Maharashtra as well, were reasons enough for the party to support her. The late Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was the NDA candidate in the presidential race in 2007.
Despite being a Congress candidate incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee also got support from Balasaheb Thackeray during the 2012 presidential poll. Ironically, Mukherjee dined with the then Shiv Sena chief in the presence of Pawar at Matoshree — the Thackeray residence and Shiv Sena headquarters. The reason for backing Mukherjee by Shiv Sena was that he was a good candidate.
Although the Shiv Sena shared a formidable relationship with the BJP, it had severed its ties of 25 years ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election in 2014. In the last years, despite being in the government both at the Centre and in the state, the party spared no opportunity to harshly criticise PM Modi.