Refrain within BJP: Economy big worry, may spill onto streets

Ravish Tiwari
CAA protests, citizenship act, union budget 2020, nirmala sitharaman, CAA-NPR-NRC protests, ami shah, narendra modi, indian express

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Union Home Minister Amit Shah. (Express photo: Amit Mehra/File)

While the BJP has publicly ratcheted up heat against CAA-NPR-NRC protests with an eye on Delhi elections, several responsible functionaries within the party and the government privately acknowledge that economic slowdown as the real concern.

“The biggest fear is if growth doesn’t pick up, it will spill onto the streets. What currently looks as disaffection in some campuses may spread further,” said a senior government functionary suggesting that it has been flagged with the Budget-making team.

Read | ‘Retail loan growth slowing down … to continue unless economy improves’

Sources said a Cabinet minister had flagged the risks of campus protests and drawn the attention of the government during one of the Cabinet meetings few weeks ago.

“The CAA-NPR-NRC protests have not eroded a single vote from our support base. Neither do these protests add an extra vote to opposition ranks. So we are not politically hassled by these protests. The real issue of concern is that of the economy,” said a senior BJP leader. The saving grace, he said, was the opposition’s lack of organisation to mobilise popular opinion on this issue.

This BJP leader’s assessment is endorsed by another senior BJP leader. “Bhaisaheb, chinta ki baat sirf arthvyavastha hai. Baki sab manageable hai,” he said, reminding that it was the economy that called for urgent attention.

The BJP leaders, however, said they hope the Budget may be able to instill some confidence and arrest the current downward slide.

“I think the economy has bottomed out. Some of the new sector-wise figures suggest that we on a recovery path,” claimed a minister handling one of the economic ministries. He, however, refrained from asserting this beyond pointing to the sound economic fundamentals of the country.

But, there remains uncertainty within the party whether the Budget is a sufficient enough tool to arrest the gloom.

“My little interaction with the business community suggests a sense of the reluctance within the community to invest. They are afraid if authorities will come chasing down with queries,” said one of the BJP leaders mentioned above. The removal of fear is critical for them to put money on projects going forward.

Read | All-Party Meet: Oppn says address anti-CAA stir, PM calls for talks on economy

Another government functionary echoed similar sentiments.

“The detoxification exercise in the name of chasing black money has continued for long. There has been enough crackdown on shell companies. There is need to also instill confidence that enough has been done,” said the government functionary. He said the government needs to chart out the next steps to post the ‘clean-up’.

“The business community needs an assurance that Income-Tax officials will not swoop down upon then when they restart investment. They need this assurance after demonetisation and other crackkdown against black money for which we had got the mandate,” said a BJP leader.

But, other leaders in the party are not sure to what extent can the situation be controlled by the government. “It is not an issue of mismatched priorities. Article 370, Triple Talaq or CAA moves happened because these are within the control of the government and the party has numerical strenght in Parliament. Economy is, not so. Let us see how the budget tries to steer it,” said a leader.

📢 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines