Black money sparring spills over onto Twitter

BY JYOTI MALHOTRA| IN Opinion | 16/11/2016
From Amit Shah to the BJP’s political opposition across the spectrum, all strove to make political capital out of PM Modi’s controversial initiative.
JYOTI MALHOTRA tracked their tweets

From Amit Shah's Twitter account.


Jyoti Malhotra


The long queues in front of banks are getting longer, private hospitals are refusing to accept old bank notes and an Intelligence Bureau report warns of public unrest if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s war on black money is not handled with the seriousness that it deserves.

To be sure, the BJP believed that the surgical strikes across the Line of Control into Pakistan-administered territory in September and the demonetization of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes last week could become the twin planks on which it could fight the upcoming all-important election in Uttar Pradesh.

Launching a “Parivartan Rath Yatra” on November 13 from Dehradun, party president Amit Shah stood on a stage on which was emblazoned the following slogan (the photograph found its way on Shah’s Twitter handle) :

Kaale dhan par kada prahar/Abki baar BJP sarkar

(Tough fight on black money will pave the way for a BJP government this time.)

Amit ShahVerified account ‏@AmitShah  4h4 hours ago

The Honest have nothing to fear......the dishonest will have nowhere to hide: @narendramodi #IAmWithModi


Earlier in Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh, Shah tweeted that “Demonetization has taken gleam from (Bahujan Sawajwadi Party leader) Mayawati and (Uttar Pradesh chief minister and Samajwadi Party leader) Akhilesh Yadav’s faces.”

Shah added : “UP’s people have decided to change the rulers and this time they will do it.”

As the prime minister’s closest confidante as well as the man who won him 71 seats in UP out of 80 during the 2014 general election (two more were added when Anupriya Patel merged her party with the BJP earlier this year), Shah has a point to prove to the prime minister. The coming elections will certainly be a litmus test of his extraordinary powers.

But if the Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi’s Twitter timeline is any indication, the BJP is home and dry. @OfficeofRG’s top six tweets on the evening of November 15 – one whole week after the PM announced his war on black money -- were spent congratulating people on Guru Nanak Jayanti, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary and a tribute to the tribal leader Birsa Munda.

Only later came a video of Modi in Japan (posted on November 13), with the telltale comment in Hindi and English :

Office of RG ‏@OfficeOfRG  Nov 13

Modi laughs as poor cry

The comment in Hindi is even more pithy (“Garib trast/Modi mast”). Certainly, the ABP video shows a happy Modi in Japan, the adulatory laughter of his audience egging him on.



Rahul had certainly started off well, joining a queue of the “aam aadmi” on November 9 outside a bank in central Delhi, soon after Modi’s demonetization announcement. But like several other of his initiatives, the young man seems unable to sustain his angst.


Office of RG ‏@OfficeOfRG  Nov 9

While the real culprits sit tight on their black money stashed away abroad or in bullion/ real estate. Well done Mr Modi

In comparison, Gaurav Pandhi, a self-confessed Nehruvian and in-charge of digital communications at the Congress party, is much better in attack mode :

Gaurav PandhiVerified account ‏@GauravPandhi  Nov 13

Acc to BJP Prez @AmitShah, the tax payers standing in queues outside Banks & ATMs are unpatriotic for complaining against demonetization   

While Ashish Khetan of the Aam Admi Party took to humour to strike at the subject :

Ashish KhetanVerified account ‏@AashishKhetan  Nov 11

I agree with @AmitShah. I saw Swiss bank account holders dressed as common men, queueing outside ATMs/Banks. 


In shocking comparison, the @yadavakhilesh account of UP chief minister Akhilesh Yadav (1.91 million followers) doesn’t have a single tweet on any aspect of Modi’s anti-black money campaign.

Whether or not the young chief minister has made any statements in public, they haven’t been reflected on his timeline. On top of the page is a tweet on Yadav flagging off the India-Myanmar-Thailand motor car rally…God help the Samajwadi Party !

As for UP’s other main political party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, its Twitter handle @bspcentraloffice seems pretty shambolic, with press notes passing off as tweets. Wonder who’s in charge of this account, as the number of followers (459) is about the same as those followed (453). The lackadaisical nature of its Twitter profile is confirmed by the fact that the pressnote issued on November 14, in fact, refuses to open.

The previous one, issued on October 31, is a suggestion by Kumari Mayawati to the PM that he spend Diwali in Delhi with soldiers who work so hard in defending the country. But the fact that Mayawati has picked on this issue to criticize Modi is, of course, indirect acknowledgement of the fact that this PM doesn’t hesitate to take strong action against Pakistan.

Interestingly, the header photo on the site shows what the Delhi party office looks like – statues of elephants with raised trunks on both sides of the Lutyens Delhi bungalow.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee seems worried sick. On November 15 evening she tweeted that she planned to meet the President to plead with him to take action to relieve the suffering of the common man :


Mamata Banerjee ‏@MamataOfficial  4h4 hours ago

The situation is serious. Very grim. People are suffering.We will meet the Hon. President tomorrow, no matter what #DeMonetisation

Earlier, Banerjee had said :

Mamata Banerjee ‏@MamataOfficial  Nov 14

This will be a killer for the common people. Already a staggering Rs 1.5 lakh crore of GDP has been lost to the economy in only six days 2/2

And again,

Mamata Banerjee ‏@MamataOfficial  Nov 14

The PM in his speech had said the poor are sleeping peacefully. This is an insult to commoners and in bad taste 1/2


Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), whose party is in key opposition to the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal, tweeted his passionate antagonism to the Demonetisation decision.

Sitaram Yechury ‏@SitaramYechury  9h9 hours ago

A bad move, poorly planned and terribly executed doesn't mean that the PM has to resort to such language. @bsIndia


Sitaram Yechury ‏@SitaramYechury  9h9 hours ago

Why not target Black money where it exists, in off-shore havens and dodgy pol funding so that every Indian gets the Rs 15 lakhs you promised

Yechury followed up his angst with ideological criticism of Modi’s economic agenda, which he argued, had written off large sums of loans that India’s rich had defaulted on 

Sitaram Yechury ‏@SitaramYechury  10h10 hours ago

#Demonetisation: Are we paying for govt's largesse to rich defaulters? Rs 1.12 lakh crores written off in 2 years …


Banerjee has since requested Yechury to form a common platform against the BJP on the black money issue. Yechury hasn’t replied to her yet. Other regional parties like the NCP and the BJD are, for the moment, holding their peace on the subject.

Will the black money issue haunt the BJP till it is hoist on its own petard?




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