New Delhi, November 15 (Business Standard): Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “surgical strike” to unearth black money through demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1000 notes may have been timed to prevent the use of black money by opposition parties in the coming elections to the Uttar Pradesh State Assembly.
Modi had identified real estate sector, education and healthcare industries as hotbeds of unaccounted money. Significantly, he also said ‘black money’ is used in elections.
There are assembly elections due in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. Seizures of caches of cash by Election Commission monitored teams before any election are common.
However, states like Urrar Pradesh and Punjab are catching up with large scale use of unaccounted money.
A bitterly contested election is in the offing in both Punjab and Uttar Pradesh in February, 2017. The Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party is trying to beat anti-incumbency, while Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party is trying to make a comeback.
Reports about huge stashes of black money for political purposes have swirled in the state ever since the Income Tax department reportedly found INR 1000 million (US$ 14.7 million) in currency notes in the basement of a mall in Noida that is owned by a liquor baron. The raid had taken place weeks before the Uttar Pradesh Assembly polls in 2012.
The value of the currency notes seized was denied by all concerned in subsequent days but the incident gave further credence to rumors that massive amounts of money were purportedly being circulated with the elections round the corner.
Similarly, the Shiromani Akali Dal-BJP combine is trying to beat a 10-year long anti-incumbency in Punjab, while Amarinder Singh-led Congress and Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) are competing to form the next government. Other states going to polls are Manipur, Goa and Uttarakhand. Unaccounted money is known to play an important part in all these states.
The demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1,000 notes has meant, as Modi himself said, the old notes are now mere scraps of paper. Any politicians who have stashed money for use during election time are likely to be tearing their hair. According to Reuters 86 percent of the notes in circulation are of these denominations.
The move has elevated the Prime Minister’s stature as a leader who is serious about taking on corruption. His criticism of the alleged corruption of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav would be taken so much more seriously by the electorate.
Incidentally, yoga guru Ramdev had suggested demonetization of INR 500 and INR 1,000 currency notes during his anti-black money agitation in 2012. The PM and his ministers also took a leaf from the anti-corruption campaign of Anna Hazare as they posted tweets with the hashtag ‘India Fights Corruption’. Hazare-led campaign was initially called ‘India Against Corruption’.
In his address to the nation, the PM alluded to people who have fought against corruption and unearthing of unaccounted money.