Panicked by widespread financial stress caused by the withdrawal of high-value currency notes and unsure about attracting an adequate crowd for a rally Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to address Lucknow on December 24, the Bharatiya Janata Party has cancelled the much-publicised event.
The rally aimed to mark the culmination of the BJP’s four Parivartan Yatras in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, which were flagged off early this month.
The decision to cancel the rally was taken on Monday, the day before a rattled prime minister defended the demonetisation decision at the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday.
On Monday, BJP President Amit Shah held a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Finance Secretary Shaktikant Das to assess the impact of the financial stress caused by the withdrawal of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 banknotes.
The decision to cancel the Lucknow event was also prompted by the relatively small crowd at the prime minister’s rally in Agra on November 20. “The turnout at Modi’s rally in Agra was not up to the mark,” said a BJP leader who did not want to be identified. “The party fears that the financial stress would accentuate in the course of the next one month, and holding a rally in the capital of UP on December 24 may, therefore, be counterproductive.”
The BJP launched its Parivartan Yatras to swing the electoral mood in Uttar Pradesh in its favour. Modi was to address public meetings almost every week in the state – which goes to polls early next year – to enhance the impact of the yatras, finishing up with a grand rally in Lucknow on December 24, the eve of the birth anniversary of BJP veteran Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
However, last week, the party decided to reschedule Modi’s rally in Kushinagar, scheduled for November 25, to allow its leaders and cadre in eastern Uttar Pradesh more time to mobilise crowds. The rally is now scheduled for November 27.
“Since the anger is more apparent in urban pockets than in villages, the party may still go ahead with Modi’s rallies scheduled to be held in rural settings of the state,” said a BJP leader.
The BJP brass appeared to be struggling with the repercussions of demonetisation within days of the government’s having taken the step. Some of the party’s own parliamentarians were reportedly outraged by the move, leading the BJP leadership to cancel two consecutive meetings of its MPs last week.
Many party MPs saw Modi’s emotional speech at the BJP parliamentary party meeting on Tuesday as a means of preventing dissident voices from coming out in the open. “The prime minister, who seemed rattled, broke down during his speech,” said one BJP MP who was present at the meeting. “It was after this that the parliamentary party passed a unanimous resolution endorsing his great crusade.”
The resolution commended Modi for his “historic, revolutionary, daring and pro-poor” decision in national interest.