Dilution of collective decision making under Modi

By Santosh Bhartiya

The BJP’s problems in Uttar Pradesh are manifold, demonetization being one of the most challenging one. The events that unfolded in the wake of demonetization lampooned government’s preparedness. The preparedness was such that ATMs were not calibrated according to the size of new notes, which put the masses in distress for two months straight? There are 1.30 lakhs branches of various banks and 2.60 lakhs ATMs in the country. The ATMs across the country did not function for two months simply because minds were not applied while designing new notes. Moreover, out of 3.90 lakh ATMs and bank branches only 30 thousand were functional or dispensing cash, which compel people to go through a terrible ordeal; limitation on cash withdrawal further added in their woes.

The third mistake committed by the government was that it had provided a window of two months to exchange old notes, which allowed the black money to come back in the system. Black money would have been affected, had the government asked people to exchange whatever money they have had within a week. Instead, it gave two months time, and allowed maximum exchange limit of two lakh per person. Forty crore Jan Dhan accounts, open recently, became the first destination of black money, and also devoured much of the counterfeit currency, rendering government’s campaign against black money meaningless. In our country the system is such that if an MLA or an MP has to exchange old currency with new, the easiest way for him to do so is through gram pradhan and panchayat members – whatever money you give them, they can adjust that money in Jan Dhan accounts of people of their trust and get those money back when ask to.

An interesting observation was that the country, for the first time, experienced socialism. Through the channel of Jan Dhan account, people converted their black money into white on 25 per cent commission: they exchanged their old notes, black money and even the so-called terror money. It can be said that for the first time money trickled down from top to bottom – people at the top kept 75 crore and passed 25 crores to the people at the bottom, and government remain empty-handed. Ironically, the government got more money than what it had issued for the market. Since there was no system in place to separate the black from the white, the banks kept accepting what had come to them. Had the government applied its mind, it would have kept the exchanged scheme for shorter period, would not have altered the size of the notes, kept all the ATMs operational and kept a close watch at lockers across the country.

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The big shots keep their black money in 26 lakh bank lockers spread across the country. Instead of forcing 1.25 billion hapless people to stand in the queues, Modi government could have done better in terms of bring black money back, had it focused on the 26 million lockers. The government could have decided that these lockers will be open in the presence of bank manager, the owner, a member of civil society, and the police. Thus the government could have known what kinds of money are there in these lockers? Consequently, many of the benami locker owners would not have turned up.  The government could have seized all the black money through this process. However, we cannot question government’s intention, but certainly it was not well-thought out plan. The country is still reeling under the blow of this scheme. This has strangulated and stuck growth rate for six months and also affected the GDP for three months. The burden was not only that more notes have come to system than they were in circulation, but the government has to bear the cost of printing new notes as well, and that too without issuing tenders and engaged those printers who were facing accusation of printing counterfeit notes at international level.

Another perplexing matter is that after Modi’s winning elections the international crude oil prices fell suddenly, which added a revenue of Rs. 8 lakh crore annually. Chanakya said somewhere that the amount of tax the government should levy on the people should be as much as a bee took juice from flower; they should not be over-taxed. The government adopted another approach. The prices of petrol fell sharply in international market, but not in India. Instead we hit the people with one tax after another. If you go to a restaurant to have dinner you have to pay 30 per cent extra as tax, and interestingly they same tax-paying people become tax evader and thief. Now the question is compared to previous governments, this government got additional Rs 20 lakh crore in three years. Where on earth did these rupees 20 lakh crore go? Has the government given any assessment of this money? New taxes are being levied everywhere, be it railway or petroleum, prices are going up everywhere. Thoughtless plans are put into place to extract money from people. It won’t be an exaggeration if you say that even the government does not know where the money has gone. Despite paying taxes and bearing the brunt of price rise, people still being told that they are thieves. There is an outrage among people over no deduction in taxes.

For the first time BJP in Uttarakhand has inducted in its fold all those who left the Congress, and took for granted those who have work tirelessly for 30-40 years. Not only this, they floated a new policy under which those leader who do not acquiesces to their diktat will be consider involved in antiparty activities, thus effectively making all the senior leaders fall under this category. For the first time the functioning of BJP is not in consonance with the functioning of RSS. There is hierarchy in the functioning of the RSS – shakha worker convey a message to his superior, the superior convey the message to his superior and thus the message emanating from bottom reaches the top. Perhaps this is the reason why from swamsevak to sarkarywah give similar answer to a similar question. Modiji has diluted this process of collective decision making or involving everyone from top to bottom in the decision making process. He is taking arbitrary decisions, without involving the party. Moreover, the offhand behavior of party president Amit Shah has left many in party clueless and many of them are pretty much upset. In view of such resentment and defeat in Bihar one cannot say for sure anything about the internal democracy in the party. But whatever come out during informal talk with BJP MPs suggest that internal democracy is almost finished.

It would be good omen for the BJP, if it loses assembly election in Uttar Pradesh. Then it is quite possible that internal democracy may be reinstated and the prime minister may once again start taking advice of his colleagues and senior leaders. In the Lok Sabha elections the BJP pocketed about 42 percent of votes in Uttar Pradesh. Now a big question is: will the BJP be able to repeat that feat? If its vote share falls by seven percent, then it will be no longer in position to form a government.

On must understand the reason behind anger against Modi ji. His main constituency was the middle class or to be precise the Baniya community. They have been supporting BJP’s politics for 50 years; and they were the one who were hit hard by demonetization. Modiji may claim increase in tax collection and increase in earnings, but what is the truth? No one can deny the fact that more business was done through what is called No. 2 (dubious way of doing business) system than through the so-called banking system. One of the largest sources of employment in India are small shopkeepers or small businessmen. Every two shop employed at least three people. Every business had engaged 15 to 20 people and they get their salary regularly.

Now the situation is such that we are forcibly paying to foreign companies. Earlier when a consumer paid Rs 100 to a shopkeeper, then the shopkeeper got Rs 100 only and the consumer received goods worth Rs 100 only. The RSS has, so far been, kept talking of Swaraj and Swadeshi. The situation today is that the government wants people to use credit cards, and all credit card businesses are in the hands of foreign companies. The consumer pays Rs 100 but that money does not go in the pockets of shopkeeper, the shopkeeper gets only Rs. 98 and rest go to the service provider country. This is contrary to what the Sangh has been preaching to its swemsevaks since 50-60 years – country’s money should remain in the country. But a single decision by the government enabled a mechanism of giving two rupees to a foreign company on every hundred rupee’s transaction through the credit cards.

According to a rough estimate, BJP has a chance in Uttrakhand, but for the party’s functionary that would be borrowed win. If the BJP had not effected a defection in the Congress, then 90 percent chances of its victory would have diminished. Friends in the BJP believe that BJP is losing Punjab to the Congress or the Aam Admi Party. They are of the opinion that in Uttar Pradesh Akhilesh Yadav and his ally will have the last laugh. The BJP is pinning it hope on Goa as well, but will the victory in Goa and Uttarakhand prove elixir for the next Lok Sabha elections? This is the biggest question beset in the minds of party workers.

Another big question and dilemma of Sangh people is that they are working for those against whom they have struggled throughout their lives, i.e. against the Congressmen. Now they have to ask people to vote for the same people. This dilemma is preventing them to campaign for the party. The Sangh is not wholeheartedly supporting the BJP in this election, although an RSS ideologue has it that the Sangh always do such kind of table talk. If the BJP won, then they will say that our workers diligently help BJP win and if the BJP lost then they say they did not support the party on such and such policies therefore they lost. But the moot question is whether the fallacies of the BJP will harm or benefit the party in Uttar Pradesh elections, or the mistakes, which commentators have been pointing out, may prove strength of the party and ultimately BJP will emerge victorious?

 

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