NEW DELHI: Ahead of elections, the Opposition tried to score points over the incumbent BJP at the Centre by rallying around issues of demonetisation, GST and sealing drives in the national capital. The counting day, however, showed that the issues managed to make little impact on the people’s mandate in Delhi.
On November 8, 2016, the BJP government had announced demonetisation of `500 and `1000 notes. The Congress, which had also promised to simpify the tax regime if voted to power, repeatedly attacked BJP over demonetisation and GST which it claimed would be defining factors in the elections.
In the capital, the BJP winning all seven seats showed people did not think demonetisation and GST were decisive factors. Massive sealing drive in West Delhi gave the Opposition an edge to make sealing drives a defining local issue for traders in the area during campaigning. But the verdict is an indication that the apparent dissent among traders did not translate in loss of votes.
On why demonetisation and GST remained non-issues, writer and Dalit rights activist Kancha Illaih said, “This election was not fought on economic issues. It was fought more on the lines of caste and religion. The anti-Muslim, anti-Pakistan wave was more pronounced than in the last general elections.” An academician, who did not wish to be named, said, “There is so much more happening. Clearly, demonetisation and GST were not issues.”
Congress candidate from New Delhi Ajay Maken had launched a direct attack on GST and demonetisation and had said these had ‘broken the country’s economy’. During a padyatra in his constituency, he had also said the BJP was trying to cover up its failure of dwindling job opportunities by focussing on non-issues. If voted to power, the Congress had said it would correct these. He had also accused Modi of favouring crony capitalists.
“The BJP’s narrative of hypernationalism coupled with the welfare oriented schemes like Swachh Bharat, Awas Yojana and Ujjwala scheme helped the engagement of people with the government. This has helped the government divert from real issues of GST and demonetisation,” said political analyst Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.