On demonetisation’s second anniversary, reactions from the BJP are muted and defensive, a far cry from celebrating its first anniversary as anti-black money day.
New Delhi: From thunderously hailing it as the Modi government’s landmark decision to a subdued, barely-there and at best, defensive, reaction on its second anniversary, demonetisation now seems like the proverbial albatross around the BJP’s neck.
Thursday, which marks two years of demonetisation, saw no celebrations, aggressive promotions or any attempt to mark the day by the Modi government as well as the BJP.
The Prime Minister, otherwise proactive on Twitter, chose to not push out a post on the day, which highly-placed sources in the party said was a carefully thought-out move.
Sources said the party didn’t want to “proactively talk about demonetisation, and its statements on it are more of a reaction to the opposition’s stand”.
In stark contrast, the first anniversary of demonetisation last year was celebrated as ‘anti-black money day’ by the BJP government, with Modi tweeting: “125 crore Indians fought a decisive battle and won – #AntiBlackMoneyDay.”
BJP reaction a response to opposition jibes
The opposition Thursday launched an aggressive attack on the note ban, with several leaders, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, providing a scathing critique of the move.
The reactions from the BJP appeared to be defensive and a retaliation to the criticism.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley clarified that the real objective of demonetisation wasn’t “confiscation of currency” but to get it into the formal economy.
“The impact of demonetisation has been felt on the collection of personal income tax,” he said in a blog post. “Its collections were higher in Financial Year 2018-19 (till 31-10-2018) compared to the previous year by 20.2%.”
The BJP also launched a #CorruptCongressFearsDemo on social media but a flurry of its tweets showed it was on the backfoot in wake of the Congress onslaught.
In the tweets, the BJP goes on to, instead, ask the Congress 10 questions, including why it fears a “bold move”.
“It is evident that the move, which had initially given us a lot of political capital, has gradually started backfiring on us,” said a source in the BJP. “With elections due soon, we don’t want demonetisation to be a key conversation, given it can hurt us.”
Vanishing from the narrative
When the Modi government announced demonetisation on 8 November 2016, the BJP attempted to portray it as a reflection of the Prime Minister’s strong and decisive leadership.
In his 2017 Independence Day speech, Modi made sure to mention the note ban.
“When demonetisation was announced, the world was surprised. People thought this was the end of Modi,” he had said. “But the way our 125 crore countrymen showed patience and faith, we were able to take one step after another in our drive against corruption.”
It had also found mention in his monthly radio address, Mann Ki Baat, on more than one occasion.
Tellingly, however, demonetisation has not found a mention in the PM’s key speeches this year and taking a cue from him, his government has maintained a low-key approach to it even on the second anniversary.
Sources in the party say unlike the poll campaign in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh elections that took place just after demonetisation, the assembly polls due year-end and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls are unlikely to see any overt mention of the initiative by party leaders.
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