The risky decision of demonetisation — which many thought would go wrong — actually seems to have paid off for the BJP. The note ban did cause chaos in the initial weeks, but later things smoothened and generally the electorate didn’t mind it as is evident from the results, say experts. After the demonetisation move, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attacked vehemently by the major political parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party (SP), Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and West Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) over the issue but the decision clicked big time with the voters of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, they said.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s phenomenal success in the two states came close on the heels of its victory in the civic polls in Odisha, Maharashtra and Chandigarh, where the elections were held soon after the note ban. “There were sections unhappy with demonetisation, but there were a large number of poorer people who felt that Modi was dealing with corruption, hitting at the rich,” said Neerja Chowdhury, political commentator and columnist.
Chowdhury said that the people bought the argument that the move, in the long run, would do good for them, and that Modi would prove to be a messiah for the poor. “The verdict shows that people are willing to give him time,” she told IANS.
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During the campaign in these five states, the Congress, SP, BSP and other opposition parties had alleged that the government’s ban on high-denomination bank notes led to hardships for the poor, and hoped that the people would give their verdict in the polls.
“This election has been fought with demonetisation issue. There was a lot of debate going on how it will impact the elections. But demonetisation has clicked big time with the voters of UP and Uttarakhand,” Praveen Rai, political analyst at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies told IANS.
Rai added: “The kind of victory we see for the BJP is unparalleled. Modi magic, which people thought had declined after Delhi and Bihar, has resurfaced and is almost like a resurrection for the party.”
On November 8 last year, the Prime Minister had announced demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, saying that the move would curtail the shadow economy and crackdown on the illicit and counterfeit cash used to fund illegal activities and terrorism.
The decision led to long queues outside banks and ATMs to withdraw cash.
Alok Rai, Professor at Institute of Management Studies at Banaras Hindu University, felt that demonetisation had a huge political impact.
“Lower classes of the society perceived the decision to be in their favour and against the rich. The BJP, especially the Prime Minister, succeeded to convince the voters about the decision,” Rai said.
“Negative campaigning by the opposition parties paid rich dividends to Modi and the BJP,” he added.
During the election campaign, the BJP leaders also raked up the issue, saying the opposition parties should take the results as a referendum on demonetisation.
Modi and BJP President Amit Shah targeted the opposition parties many a time during their election campaign, saying demonetisation had given sleepless nights to opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, Babua (Akhilesh Yadav) and Bua (Mayawati).