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The Collateral Impact Of Narendra Modi's Demonetisation Drive

Even as the PMO prefers to remain tight-lipped about who will be the ultimate victim, the Prime Minister’s strategists are supposed to have been entrusted with the task to identify the ‘scapegoats’ among stalwarts dealing with the demonetisation initiative

With the 50-day deadline for ‘demonetization hardship’ is to end soon, the demonetisation-crackdown is no longer a ‘surgical strike’ and it has started posing a major threat of having a collateral impact instead. Contrary to the belief — even former President Dr A.P.J. Abdul Kalam used to advocate — that a leader is meant to own up to failure and share the success with teammates, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is believed to be all set to pass on the buck to his teammates if his much-acclaimed demonetization move turns out to be a fiasco.

Even as the PMO prefers to remain tight-lipped about who will be the ultimate victim, the PM’s strategists are supposed to have been entrusted with the task to identify the ‘scapegoats’ among stalwarts dealing with the demonetisation initiative. If well-placed sources in the PMO are to be believed, the Prime Minister has reasons to claim immunity from the charges of demonetisation’ fiasco and only the functionaries involved in the execution of demonetisation decision are to be blamed instead. They contented that the Prime Minister held a series of confabulations and secret parlays with a team of bankers and confidants and obtained the consensus over the demonetisation initiative to move ahead with the decision. He could not be held responsible for any debacle as such, sources claimed.

They, however, hinted on two key functionaries that are likely to be made scapegoats in a possible bid to protect the interests of the Prime Minister. First, RBI Governor, Urjit Patel might be held responsible for financial disarray at different banks for want of supply of substantial number of currency in particular and second, Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley is likely to bear the wrath for the overall economic disorder across the country after demonetisation. While Patel is said to be the personal choice of the Prime Minister and his removal at this juncture is apprehended to stoke a political and non-political flutter in the banking sector in particular, Jaitley has hardly any reason to defend himself. He had never been the personal choice of the PM and is said to be holding the plum post with the backing of a section of corporate houses being a corporate lawyer by profession.

Sources claimed that Jaitley might, however, retain a suitable berth in the Modi cabinet if he was removed from the Finance Ministry. They contended that in the backdrop of Foreign Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj’s ill-health, the Prime Minister was contemplating a minor jig in his cabinet. It is believed that PM’s strategists had suggested to replace Swaraj with Jaitley and she should be left with a smaller portfolio. Jaitley is likely to be replaced with someone from the RSS coterie, sources said.

In order to ensure a possible exit of Jaitley from Finance, the possibility of BJP stalwart Subramanium Swamy being elevated cannot be ruled out. Swamy — believed to be an expert in economic affairs — had secret parlays with the Prime Minister on different occasions in the recent past. He is said to have suggested to the PM to develop such a mechanism in the PMO that would enable him to hold control of financial affairs. Sources privy to Swamy claimed that an economic cell was being developed in the PMO under the supervision of Swamy.

Swamy, a Harvard-educated economist and nominated member of Rajya Sabha, is known for his firebrand personality and his self-styled anti-corruption crusade. If he is fighting court cases against the Congress in particular in connection with irregularities in the party-owned National Herald property issue, he has kept on an implicit tirade against Jaitley time and again.

To top it all, will the Prime Minister who is mulling ways to find a scapegoat for the failure of the demonetisation initiative be able to invoke public support while claiming immunity from the crisis? The answer is unlikely to be in the affirmative as the people have exuded confidence in him alone and in the light of his promises to restore the things to normalcy after 50 days, they have had to suffer and endure the worst-ever financial problems.

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