SULTANPUR: FEB 15,
Discussions at tea stalls and in markets in towns and villages of eastern Uttar Pradesh often veer around to demonetisation, which has led to a cash crunch.
However, opinion on the issue is predictably mixed, with some seeing it as a disaster and others claiming that it will be good for the country in the long run.
Probe a little deeper, however, and an unmistakable pattern emerges.
In an election where the battle lines are drawn on caste and community lines, communities that oppose the BJP speak against demonetisation and those traditionally in support of the saffron party defend it. Sometimes assertively but at other times, a bit apologetically.
In other words, while demonetisation is often talked about, it may not have decisive impact on voting patterns. “Demonetisation or corruption are not really electoral issues.
What matters is what caste one belongs to. People may not think of other issues when they cast their vote,” said Afzal Khan from Sultanpur.
His observation seems spot on, as one travels through the eastern districts. In Varanasi’s Muslim-dominated Madanpura locality, people say demonetisation has hurt the weavers badly.
“The famous Banarasi sari work has collapsed due to demonetisation. Weavers used to take thread on credit and repay the amount after some months. This stopped abruptly with demonetisation,” said Mohammad Rayees, an elderly resident.
“Looms are not going to get raw material till they repay, and they don’t have cash for this.”
Muslim localities across Varanasi resonate with similar sentiments, with people pronouncing demonetisation a disaster.
But Durgesh Rai, a middle-class Bhumihar resident of Varanasi, disagrees.
He says educated people understand that the pain endured for some days will help the country in the long run. “Those who are illiterate may be angry.
But educated people like us know that once all demonetised money has passed through the system, it is good for the country,” he says at Assi Chauraha in Varanasi.
Nitesh Dube, a driver from a village near Babatpur airport of Varanasi, says, “It may have affected those who are into big business, but people like us deal in small sums. So, we are not facing problems. And the little problem there is does not matter, as Modiji’s efforts to bring back black money will help the country.”
A group of young men — all Yadavs — sipping tea near Jaunpur say demonetisation was the worst policy decision. “No rich people have queued up before banks. The poor suffered and many have lost their livelihoods,” said Naresh Yadav.
Pasi villagers from Tahirpur village in Jaunpur district sound crestfallen: they say demonetisation has hit their meagre earnings hard.
But hardly a kilometre away in the same village, in the colony of the OBC Maurya caste, an aged villager commends people for having borne the “temporary pain” with discipline. But was it good for the country? “If people bore it with patience, it must be,” he quips.
SULTANPUR: FEB 15,