Noting that the Shiv Sena had opposed demonetisation over its implementation, but not its intent, party leader Aditya Thackeray has said that, one year down the line, “even the intent seems dubious”. Writing a blog for NDTV on the occasion of the third anniversary of the Maharashtra government, the Sena youth leader said the “Demon” of Demonetisation had caused GDP growth to drop while “lakhs of jobs were lost, businesses were shut down, everything declined apart from counterfeit money, terrorism and black money” — the ostensible reasons for the exercise. It is for the first time that the Shiv Sena, which has been criticising the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government in its dailies — ‘Saamana’ and ‘Dopahar Ka Saaman’ — has attacked the NDA from a different platform. Giving his grim verdict on the move that the NDA government at the Centre has sought to celebrate, he wrote: “Demonetisation failed. It failed the hopes of all those who stood in never-ending lines for the country. It failed the country.” “Now, even the intent seems dubious,” he said, before adding bluntly, “The less said, the better.” Terming the performance of the BJP-Shiv Sena state government as “a mixed bag”, Thackeray junior has explained why, despite being an ally, it has been compelled to assume the role of an embedded opposition, enacting the dual role both at the Centre and in Maharashtra.
Thackeray, 27, who heads the Yuva Sena (youth wing of Shiv Sena), said the government has turned a deaf ear to the people’s woes and, let alone listening to people, there is “zero coordination in the NDA”. He recalled how the Railway Ministry suddenly hiked Mumbai suburban rail fares in June 2014, barely two months after assuming power at the Centre, shocking the Sena, especially as the NDA had been opposed to any hike without improving services. “With our allies in the state too scared to discuss this or voice anything to the Centre, we had to voice it. Result: It was rolled back,” Thackeray said. Similar was the case with the much-criticised Land Acquisition Bill “where the (NDA) government displayed its dictatorial streak for the first time” while being anti-farmer, removing the 80 per cent consent from landowners for industries to take away their lands and other issues. “…The draconian law would have created havoc in the country… If you have no voice, you will not be heard at all. “The NDA’s bill was far less equitable than what the Congress had offered in its 2013 bill, despite what was meant to be a popular-populist BJP,” Thackeray said, adding that after the Sena’s opposition it was also rolled back.
Demonetisation was followed by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in which Mumbai stood to lose most as it killed the economic independence of revenue and expenditure of local governments and “Mumbai would have lost its financial importance”. With the Sena’s tough bargains, debates and other platforms, the Finance Ministry accepted its demands, but now GST is being tweaked as per each state election, starting with Gujarat, and it is now a tool for every party at the Centre to adjust before polls. “It was to be One Nation, One Tax. Everyone knows what it’s turned out to be, especially when the Prime Minister tries to share its blame with the opposition party, while, when it seemed good, it was presented like freedom at midnight delivered only by the BJP and nobody else,” Thackeray said in a direct attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He termed a central minister’s comment — “If they have cars, they can pay more” — as the (French Queen) Marie Antoinette ‘moment’, wondered why nobody from the BJP rejected it, when it was made against the backdrop of the rising fuel prices and inflation, against which the Sena had agitated. Touching upon other Maharashtra- and Mumbai-related issues, he said: “If the government was to focus as keenly as it does on social media, hoardings, event management and public relations campaigns, on the promises and demands we made together, we will be accepted time and again by the people.” “The Shiv Sena isn’t opposing, we are just making sure that the government hears the people’s ‘Mann Ki Baat’,” he concluded in the NDTV blog.