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27 Dec 2016

Sangh leaves it to Modi to reap or pay on note recall

J.P. Yadav, TT, New Delhi, Dec. 26: Prime Minister Narendra Modi gambled on demonetisation in consultation with none and must therefore own the consequences alone, many in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the BJP feel.
Several Sangh-BJP officials said off the record that they were waiting to see whether the vaunted "historic decision" propelled Modi's image or pulled it down, claiming that the Uttar Pradesh elections would be a key indicator.
"Neither the Sangh nor the party played any role in the note recall. Nor did anybody from the government. The decision was solely Modiji's; so it's Modiji's image that is at stake," a Sangh insider said.
Sangh officials realise that if the demonetisation experiment succeeds, Modi will dwarf the parent organisation in stature. If it fails, the Sangh can dump the entire blame on the Prime Minister.
"Modiji is directly interacting with the people; the Sangh and the party are nowhere," said a BJP politician with deep roots in the Sangh.
He termed the note recall a "big gamble" and suggested its fallout would be "extreme" either way: "Modiji's popularity could skyrocket or nosedive."
Modi has so far made no attempts to hedge his bets, choosing to back his decision to the hilt. Sangh officials said the Prime Minister firmly believed that the measure, which he is portraying as one adopted in the national interest, would pay off.
Recently, when a team of Sangh officials met the Prime Minister to convey their concerns over the demonetisation, Modi bluntly told them he was willing to face the consequences but was certain the move would benefit the country.
Sangh and BJP insiders now have their eyes peeled on the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, due early next year. They believe that a victory would be deemed a popular endorsement of the note recall although poll outcomes depend on a multitude of factors.
"It's possible the BJP will win because of popular disenchantment with Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, but in the public eye it would be a victory for demonetisation," a Sangh official said.
Punjab, Uttarakhand, Manipur and Goa too are expected to vote simultaneously with Uttar Pradesh but it's the outcome in India's most populous and politically most significant state that would matter the most, the sources said.
Officially, the Sangh had lauded the demonetisation as a decision taken in the "national interest" and with "honest intention". But it had been slow to do it, letting a full 14 days elapse between the November 8 announcement of the note recall and its November 22 endorsement.
"Our volunteers are helping those queuing outside banks and ATMs in rural areas. In the process, we are receiving direct feedback from the ground," a Sangh official said.
He would not reveal whether the feedback has been positive or negative.

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