Addressing what he described as “the biggest rally I have ever seen”, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking to an audience of lakhs in Lucknow, trashed the competition, ticking off what he described as the most obvious flaw of each.
The PM took no names as he took down the Congress (“it has still not succeeded in installing the son as its top boss”), Mayawati’s BSP (“a party flapping to deposit its ill-gotten wealth in bank accounts”), and the ruling Samajwadi Party (“an outfit where the main family is entangled in a family feud”). All opposition parties, he said, “are obsessed with Modi hatao (remove Modi) Me? I’m fixated on removing corruption,” he said, referring to his sudden demonetisation drive that was launched in November and cancelled 500 and 1,000-rupee notes at just a few hours’ notice.
The Congress’ Manish Tewari retaliated by stating, “The PM forgot to say that there’s also a party that has been dividing the country on the basis of religion and caste.”
Dalit icon Mayawati who has served four times as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, has denied that about 100 crores deposited in two accounts linked to her party (one belongs to her brother) after the notes ban was announced constitutes black or untaxed money. The Congress, depleted by losses in a long list of elections and unable to strike an alliance so far in India’s most-populous state, appears to have virtually abandoned its campaign in Uttar Pradesh. And the Samajwadi Party has been ripped apart by the epic father-son battle of Mulayam Singh and Akhilesh Yadav, with the latter, who is the Chief Minister, wresting control of the political outfit by having himself named as party president, a move his father has rejected as “unconstitutional.”
“There is only one option for Uttar Pradesh,” the PM said, “and it is the BJP.” He equated his party’s 14-year absence from governing the state with a dearth of development that would be quickly reversed “if you just give us the chance.”
The demonetisation drive, which created a large and still unresolved shortage of cash, will be a big influencer in the Uttar Pradesh election, which is why the PM sought to reinforce the slew of measures that he first revealed in a special New Year’s Eve televised speech. Farmers, small traders and medium-sized entrepreneurs, all these will get financial assistance” he said, amid reports that his party’s MPs from Uttar Pradesh have shared concerns about the cash crunch.
Of late, the long lines at banks that were seen in the weeks after demonetisation have thinned out, but most ATMs are still not working, and some experts predict a contraction in economic growth, which has been refuted by the government.