NEW DELHI: From catchword to dirty word, notebandi, or demonetisation, appears to have been unceremoniously dropped from the Bharatiya Janata Party’s lexicon. This is apparent from the recent statements by the party’s media managers and its star election campaigners, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah. In the current election campaign for Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, notebandi is no longer being used as the password for electoral success.
This is in sharp contrast to the days after the momentous night of November 8 last year, when Modi, Shah and even the party’s humble karyakarta (worker), publicised demonetisation with such power that some believe it helped the party to spectacular election victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand in February-March this year.
The New Indian Express analysed select speeches of Modi and Shah from November 2016 to March 2017 and from August 2017, when the Reserve Bank of India revealed that 99 per cent of the demonetised currency had come back to the central bank, to the first week of November.
The results are startling.
Consider this: From November 13, 2016 to February 27, 2017, Modi and Shah referred to demonetisation about 54 times in 24 speeches in various public forums, an average of 2.25 times roughly per speech.
On November 20, 2016, Shah addressed two rallies in Jalandhar and Chandigarh while Modi took part in a Parivartan rally at Agra. Between the two of them, demonetisation was uttered as many as 12 times.
In contrast to the high-pitch campaign for demonetisation, in their 14 rallies since August in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh, Modi and Shah have together used the word demonetisation merely five times, an average of just 0.3 per speech.
Modi has visited Gujarat several times since October while Shah has camped in Himachal for weeks. The PM mentioned demonetisation only once — at the launch of the Ghogha-Dahej ferry service on October 23.
This turnaround has coincided with the RBI statement, which was immediately seized upon by the opponents of demonetisation, especially opposition parties, who denounced the move as a monumental failure to eradicate black money.
“This indicates a realisation on the part of BJP leaders, including Shah and Modi, that demonetisation is now a case of diminishing returns. It has an immense possibility of backfiring because people are not sure if they were taken for a ride,” said Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, the author of Narendra Modi: The Man, The Times.
He said the feeling of being duped crept after the RBI report, which showed that demonetisation did not help unearth black money, as the government had promised.