With the Indian general elections just a few months away, Opposition parties have launched a no-holds-barred attack on the Narendra Modi-led Bhartiya Janata Party.
The Modi government is facing fire on issues ranging from unemployment to agrarian distress. But the one issue on which all political opponents have been taking a swipe at Prime Minister Modi for a long time is his so-called promise of depositing Rs 15 lakh in every Indian’s bank account.
So did Modi really make such a promise in the run-up to the 2014 general elections when he was the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party?
If one goes through the archives, the earliest mention of Rs 15 lakh by Modi was on November 2013 at a rally in Kanker (Chhattisgarh). Blasting the then Congress-led UPA government at the Centre, he said, “If, even once, the money hoarded by these crooks in banks abroad… even if we bring only that back, every poor Indian would get Rs 15 to Rs 20 lakh, just like that. There’s so much money.”
Clearly, Modi was making an estimation that if all the black money stashed abroad is brought back, each Indian could get Rs 15 lakh. He was talking about the quantum of the black money lying abroad and to hammer home the point, he posited an example of each Indian getting Rs 15 to 20 lakh.
There was no ostensible promise. although it is not known how he arrived at that estimate. Moreover, there is no mention of each Indian getting Rs 15 lakh in the 2014 elections manifesto of the BJP.
Opposition leaders, however, have twisted his words and keep repeating that he promised Rs 15 lakh to every Indian if voted to power. The narrative also got traction because of ambiguous statements and half-baked defence of the NDA leaders.
BJP president Amit Shah, in an interview, termed the ‘Rs 15 lakh promise’ as a mere election jumla or a gimmick. “See, this is a jumla. Rs 15 lakh will not be credited to anyone’s account. They (the Opposition) know it, you know it and even the country knows it. The idea is to bring back the black money and utilise it for the betterment of poor people. Schemes will be made for the economically backward people. No one will ever get cash and they all know it. This is a way of delivering a speech… a metaphor. Whatever black money comes back, will be used for formulating schemes for the poor, and this is what he (Modi) wanted to say,” Shah was quoted as saying.
It was interpreted by the anti-BJP sections of the media and political rivals as BJP hoodwinking the people in 2014 by going back on its word.
Later, Ramdas Athawale, minister of state for social justice and empowerment, fuelled the myth by claiming that people would get Rs 15 lakh ‘slowly’, but not in one go. “The government does not have so much money and it has asked the Reserve Bank of India, but it did not oblige,” he said on December 18, 2018.
Hence, the inability of the BJP leaders to clear the air regarding Rs 15 lakh promise and their imprudent statements have given the Opposition enough ammunition to use this as a potent weapon to lampoon Modi.