Mumbai: The Shiv Sena has toned down its criticism of demonetisation as it waits to see the political fallout of the drive—something that will decide whether or not it will ally with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for the Mumbai civic polls due early next year, say Sena and BJP functionaries.
Last week, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said his party will wait till 30 December, the deadline Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set for demonetised currency notes to be returned. A senior Shiv Sena functionary, who asked not to be identified, said the Sena was keen to see the impact of currency ban post-30 December to decide about the pre-poll alliance with the BJP for elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in February 2017. The Shiv Sena, this leader hinted, may not be favourable to an alliance if demonetisation turns out to be a “political disaster”.
“Why should we take the blame for something we did not do? If currency ban proves to be a disaster, then let the BJP take the blame,” said the Sena leader.
ALSO READ | Shiv Sena asks Narendra Modi to bring changes in Sharia law for triple talaq
Apart from demonetisation, the BJP and Shiv Sena have a host of other issues at stake in the civic polls which will also see nine other municipal corporations go to polls. So far Thackeray and chief minister Devendra Fadnavis have refused to take a position on a pre-poll alliance, but this hasn’t stopped other leaders from hitting out at each other.
“Our sense is that the impact of the currency ban would be felt for some time even after 30 December. The large-scale public inconvenience won’t just go away after this deadline gets over. We will see the situation then and take a decision about the alliance,” said the senior Sena leader quoted above. He said the rationale behind this “wait and watch” strategy was to measure the “popularity and public perception” of demonetisation—and of Modi himself.
ALSO READ | NDA allies join chorus for discussion on note ban
“It is very difficult to make estimates at this stage. In the first round of municipal polls, the BJP has done well but other parties including Congress and NCP have not done so badly that we can infer that their opposition to demonetisation backfired. So the political impact of currency ban is still a matter of speculation,” said this Sena leader.
Last week Thackeray met finance minister Arun Jaitley and home minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi. Thackeray took a measured stand on demonetisation saying he supported the motive behind the withdrawal but that his party was obligated to raise the difficulties people were facing. He said he would give Modi till 30 December to bring in the promised “achche din”.
ALSO READ | Uddhav Thackeray gives PM Modi 20 more days to bring ‘achche din’
A senior BJP leader and minister said Thackeray was buying time. “Unlike his father Balasaheb who would mostly act on impulse, Uddhav is a thinking politician. He does not want to rush into an alliance with BJP for the Mumbai elections nor does he want to sound too bitter. He is keeping his options open,” said this BJP leader who did not wish to be named.
He conceded that even the BJP was not “cocksure” about demonetisation’s electoral advantages—“at least in polls which are due in early part of 2017,” including the Mumbai civic polls. “Mumbai polls are likely in February 2017 and it is difficult to predict what the political impact of the currency ban will be like around that time. Much of it depends on the currency situation and how we politically manage the impact,” said the BJP leader.