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11 Dec 2016

BJP picks up notes of discord - Demonetisation euphoria ebbing, feel ministers and leaders

J.P. Yadav, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 10: The BJP's euphoria around the demonetisation drive is giving way to nervousness amid feedback that the unending queues outside banks and ATMs are eroding the public's patience.
Government and party members who had initially hailed the demonetisation as a masterstroke by Prime Minister Narendra Modi have turned cautious in their assessments of its possible political impact, especially with the Uttar Pradesh elections looming.
"Yes, we have been receiving reports of a mood swing because of the continuing cash crunch," a minister said off the record.
"We are watching the situation closely and hoping that things will improve after the 50 days sought by the Prime Minister."
But with reports suggesting the hardship might not end even after the December 30 deadline flagged by Modi, the minister feared for the BJP's prospects in the Assembly elections due early next year.
Modi, who had on November 13 said "this hardship is only for 50 days", told a rally today that "the situation will start gradually moving towards normality" after 50 days.
Outpourings of wide popular support in the initial days of the demonetisation had raised the BJP's hopes of sweeping the upcoming polls in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, if not incumbency-hit Punjab, on the back of the decision.
"But I'm now receiving calls from people in my constituency seeking help to secure cash from banks. They seem very angry and want to know how long the problems will last," a BJP parliamentarian from Uttar Pradesh said.
The MP acknowledged that the situation was different in the first half of November, with people openly lauding the Prime Minister for cracking down on black money.
One minister, while acknowledging the hardships faced by the people, cautioned against underestimating Modi.
"He thinks far ahead of us. He will again announce something that will win the hearts of the people," the minister said, hinting at a possible crackdown on " benami" real estate.
Not everyone in the ruling establishment shares such optimism, though.
Through November, it had been hard to find a single minister or MP in the ruling party who didn't back the demonetisation. Even known Modi baiters in the party termed it a masterstroke and went so far as to predict a win in the 2019 general election, still two-and-a-half years away.
That December has wrought a change in the mood is evident with reports trickling in about differences within the cabinet over the note ban.
Sources said that at least two ministers had wanted to raise questions when the Prime Minister informed them of his decision at the cabinet meeting on November 8 evening.
"Nitin Gadkari, it appeared, was about to raise questions but another senior minister motioned him to sit down," a minister present at the meeting told The Telegraph, asking not to be quoted.
The minister added that a second minister too looked poised to ask a few questions but was pulled down by the arm by another and urged to keep quiet.
Sensing that some of his ministers had reservations, Modi announced at the meeting that if the exercise failed he would shoulder the entire blame.

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