Monday, December 12, 2016

Time for serious corrections

Pankaj Sharma
12 December 2016

Fear of economic recession and loss of jobs have gripped the nation post-demonetisation.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi must accept publicly that his government's demonetisation initiative has been a costly mistake, considering the month-long chaos across the country. It will give him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) a short lease of life. Ignorance about ground realities and an unwillingness to take any corrective steps will marginalise the BJP in the forthcoming assembly elections in five states including Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

Modi and BJP President Amit Shah have a right to take a public posture that the road ahead is very smooth for them, their cadre and the country. But the fact is they do not want to listen to the voices of millions of citizen. They are deliberately ignoring the after effects of a decision which has already been proven to be a monumental blunder. The current ruling dispensation does not want to give any opportunity to the opposition parties to present key facts about demonetisation. The implementation process raises numerous pertinent questions about the real intentions of those who have the full backing and blessings of Modi. The government has blocked the presentation of these facts by the opposition in Parliament by not allowing any discussion on adjournment motions.

Unrest within the BJP can be seen on the surface now. Modi’s aggressive body language has ensured his party parliamentarians to fall in line and praise his move publicly, but in private many have expressed their fears. They are apprehensive of facing a backlash when they go back to their constituencies after the Winter Session concludes this week. They accept that they have no convincing arguments for Modi’s policy and moreover it is impossible to defend its implementation. BJP MPs from election-going states fear of a silent wave against their party which is strong enough to demolish the social boundaries systematically created through religious polarisation. Senior leaders of BJP agree in private conversations with what former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh had said in Rajya Sabha. Singh further elaborated on his comments in a recent column written for a national daily.

The fear of economic recession and the loss of jobs have gripped Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and its affiliates also. I know for certain that the top RSS leadership and several of its sister organisations are of the opinion that "the Bhasmasur created by this decision will incinerate the ascetic practices of thousands of volunteers because of whose tireless efforts for decades there is BJP government at the Centre with a full majority". RSS stalwarts have even conveyed their feelings to the Prime Minister directly and indirectly. The Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), an affiliate of RSS, has openly said that since Modi came to power, far more jobs had been lost than created and demonetisation is going to cost much more jobs as well. 

“Under the new government, 1,35,000 job opportunities have been created so far, but 20 lakh people have lost their jobs,” said BMS President Baij Nath Rai. In an interview, he recently said that demonetisation has made things worse, especially in the unorganised sector and its profound impact has to be ascertained. "Similarly, there are fears about a contraction of the GDP," he said. Rai also criticised the government’s policy focus, saying, “Instead of working towards increasing job opportunities, the Modi government is busy in experiments and all the policies were not yielding results because of a lack of preparation”. BMS has openly said that the government's drive towards a "cashless economy" would not be achieved. "It's not possible to turn India cashless because our society is predominantly cash-dependent,” Rai said.

Several other RSS affiliated organisations are also complaining about the "cashless" campaign as well. Swadeshi Jagran Manch, the Sangh's economic wing, feels that asking everyone to go cashless doesn't appear to be a good idea in a country like India. Similarly, RSS farmer wing Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS) has told the Prime Minister that the staunchest supporters of RSS and BJP are small traders and they dealt extensively in cash. "These traders donate in both cash and kind to the RSS, which too operates mostly in cash. The idea of going cashless contradicts the Sangh's functioning over the years," tells one of the prominent leaders of BKS.

Modi has been trapped in his tendency to experiment beyond all the permissible limits of power. The unnecessary aggression in his style of functioning has led him to a dilemma. The ‘i-am-always-right’ syndrome is the road block in moving towards the path of correction. Secondly, not taking the senior colleagues in his government into confidence about this step, and rather behaving with them as if all of them have been unworthy of his trust, is now paying him the required dividend. The majority of his lieutenants are busy paying lip service and relishing the situation in which, a leader who imposed himself on the entire party and likes to do everything alone in an autocratic manner, is floundering.

I am sure, if 280 BJP members in Lok Sabha, 55 in Rajya Sabha and around 1200 in state councils and assemblies are given free and fair opportunity to express their opinion through a secret ballot on demonetisation, the outcome will stun Modi and his false devotees. To garner the support and affection of the people could be easy, but it cannot be retained for long if it was attained through gimmicks. If one ‘masterstroke’ of yours can make you fall from grace so badly, isn’t it the time you apologise to your nation, Mr Prime Minister?

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