There is no denying the fact that upcoming Assembly elections in five states — Punjab, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Goa — will be a virtual referendum on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s demonetisation decision. Introduced as a shock therapy against the twin evils of corruption and black money, demonetisation, for now, has become a controversial decision as no credible data on its success is available.
While positive effects of demonetisation may be known in the next few months, the announcement of poll dates by Election Commission of India (ECI) on Wednesday has already set the poll processes in motion.
The upcoming elections are peculiar in many ways. For instance, there is only one party — BJP — which is at the risk of losing everything, while the rest have everything to gain. Reason: Since November 8, the BJP has almost made the upcoming elections not only a referendum on demonetisation but also a one man (Modi) versus the rest show.
The BJP is already a ruling party in Goa and a coalition partner in Punjab. In Uttar Pradesh, the saffron party is pitted against an almost divided Samajwadi Party, a weak Congress and Mayawati’s apparently weakening BSP. In Uttarakhand, BJP is expected to topple the Congress government, while in Manipur, it is expecting a resurgence on the lines of Arunachal Pradesh.
On December 13, UP CM Akhilesh Yadav was the first politician to claim that upcoming Assembly election in Uttar Pradesh will be a referendum on demonetisation. He added it would take at least a year for things to become normal.
However, addressing a political rally in Lucknow on January 2, PM Modi suggested critics to rest as people of the state had already which party will “win” the upcoming election in UP. He was hinting towards a BJP win. However, words said during a political rally do not always come true. BJP President Amit Shah, who is credited with calling such words “Chunavi Jumlas”, knows it better than many.
Ever since the announcement of demonetisation on November 8, the Opposition parties have been claiming it to be an election-inspired move. Their claim has some weight as PM Modi took it upon himself to promote benefits of demonetisation and the subsequent push on cashless economy agenda by touring across the country.
Among the five states, BJP is not expected to win big in Punjab but the saffron party cannot afford to lose UP. A win in UP would make Modi’s further journey as India’s PM smooth. A loss would bring ridicule and a proof that people are not ready to leapfrog to the future by adopting cashless modes of transactions and accept shocks like demonetisation.
However, winning UP would be nothing short of a miracle. The party has not ruled the state in the last 14 years. It now faces formidable opponents in the form of Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati and an all-weather enemy Congress. The ongoing feud in Samajwadi Party has increased the value of Brand Akhilesh as a development-oriented leader. If voting for development, people would be split in their choice — to accept Akhilesh brand of development or the one of Modi.