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'Surgical strike' against terror cash and poll-bound heartland players

Cash Wash

By Radhika Ramaseshan
  • Published 9.11.16
Modi addresses the nation on Tuesday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Nov. 8: A "surgical strike on the menace of corruption and black money" was how BJP chief Amit Shah described Narendra Modi's demonetisation announcement made via a televised address to the nation. If Shah's 2014 description as "jumla (a manner of speaking)" of the BJP's promise of getting back black money stashed away abroad became canon fodder for its main opponent, the Aam Admi Party, tonight he unleashed a flurry of tweets.

This time, more measured with his choice of words, the BJP chief went on to list the prospective benefits, political, economic and moral, to be gained from the decision.

One: "The interest of honest taxpayers who have been contributing in nation building has been protected."

Two: "PM @ narendramodi has yet again demonstrated his unwavering commitment to promises he made to people of India."

Three: "Evil designs of anti-India elements who support terror on Indian soil, fake currency and narcotics also stand thwarted today."

Four: The demonetisation will usher in "economic prosperity" in the lives of the poor, the middle class and the neo-middle class.

BJP sources said the point about anti-India elements was expected to form the centre of its campaign for the forthcoming Assembly elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, where terrorism and its alleged sponsorship by "ill-gotten funds" from "local sources" would be fused into a larger theme of an "enemy" who was out to destroy the social and economic fabric of the state.

For Modi, today's announcement could be the brush he was looking for to scrub his credentials tarnished recently, among others, by a soldier's suicide after he was allegedly short-changed on Orop and the crackdown on tribal rights campaigner and academic Nandini Sundar.

More so, because barring a last-minute surprise, he is expected to be the BJP's principal vote canvasser in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Punjab.

The BJP and Modi's obsession to repatriate black money floundered despite the fact that the government's first executive order was to constitute an SIT to go into the issue.

There was a feeling among the RSS and the BJP hardliners that the "system" and "vested interests" working it presently were not allowing Modi the scope and leeway to fulfil his objective. Hardliners such as Chennai-based chartered accountant and RSS associate

S. Gurumurthy, IIM-Bangalore professor and longtime Sangh sympathiser R.Vaidyanathan and Rajya Sabha MP Subramanian Swamy were often vocal in their criticism, hinting at "internal" elements in the government who were out to "block" the black money trail and "sabotage" Modi's efforts.

Shah's ill-timed " jumla" usage heightened their apprehensions.

The black money theme is an old RSS favourite that was used to huge political advantage in the 1989 elections when the Sangh and the BJP got at Rajiv Gandhi over his alleged complicity in the Bofors gun deal.

However, there was a flip side that BJP insiders spoke of in hushed tones.

Nobody denied that tonight's move could cripple Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati in the run-up to the Uttar Pradesh elections. The Samajwadi Party and BSP chiefs are bogged down in legal cases involving possession of disproportionate assets and have a reputation for profligate election spending although the charges against them remain unsubstantiated because the BJP itself is not too far behind - or perhaps on a par - in organising high voltage campaigns.

Unlike Bihar, elections in Uttar Pradesh cost a lot although not as much as those in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. However, sources in the principal Uttar Pradesh parties have admitted that this time "money could be thrown around" as in the southern states to "buy" votes, something unheard of so far.

Unlike Bihar too, Uttar Pradesh has prospered economically with the burgeoning realtor and construction business in the cities and towns. Most of the builders and real estate companies fund the main parties. Those like the Samajwadi Party have occasionally obliged "friends" from these sectors with a Rajya Sabha seat.

How the BJP reworks its own equations with the fat cats remains to be seen but sources claimed that the demonetisation would "almost certainly pauperise" Mulayam and Mayawati.

The cash-vote connection is equally at play in election-bound Goa where parties are patronised by mining and construction lobbies.

The BJP lost no time in putting up posters with Modi's mug, hailing his "historic step to fight corruption, back money, terrorism and counterfeit currency" and emphasising the "opportunities" the decision will "open up" for the poor and the middle class.

Additionally, the BJP twitter as well as those used by the ministers deconstructed in lay language what demonetisation meant and listed the do's people should adopt in the coming days.