Euphoria gone, Naidu in fire-fighting mode

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Gold curbs add to exasperation of public after note banSince Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a cash war, the Naidu government has been unwittingly feeling the heat of the man on the street. There is no let-up in people’s hardships, though three weeks elapsed since the ban of big notes. Limits on gold possession come as last straw for Naidu’s cabinet colleagues to break silence at a cabinet meeting. Naidu no more claims credit for nudging Modi toward the note ban

  

Pain or gain has to be shared in friendship. In the case of the TDP in Andhra Pradesh, it is the pain after the electoral gain which is now getting passed on from its ruling ally at the Centre. As Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a cash war, the Naidu government in the State unwittingly feels the heat of the man on the street. And, there is no let-up in the people’s hardships and anger either even as three weeks elapsed since the ban of big notes.

 

In a haste to fix his rivals, the Chief Minister unknowingly walks into his own trap; he claimed that he was the man behind the PM’s surgical strike. In the run-up to the note ban, he shot off mails to Modi seeking ban on Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes to purge the economy of black money. And, it finally happened, letting the `credit’ go to the AP CM. However, the Naidu government began feeling the aftershocks as the PM’s surgical strike hit the poor and the middle class hard. Even the State economy is not spared. The banks have been subjected to attacks and there appears no end to the cash woes of people all over. Finance Minister Yanamala Ramakrishnudu at a review meeting admitted that the revenue loss triggered by acute liquidity crisis was a whopping Rs 800 crore in November month alone. The loss is estimated to swell up to Rs 1,000 crore, sounding an adverse impact on the State Budget for 2017-18.

 

As if in a double whammy for its regional friend, the Union Finance Ministry has imposed curbs on purchase of jewellery, limiting the possession of yellow metal to 500 grams for women and 250 grams for men. This became a last straw for the Naidu’s cabinet colleagues to break their silence at a cabinet meeting a few days ago. A section of ministers warned their leader that the curbs on possession of gold will hurt the sentiments of women which may become suicidal for the party. They even urged Naidu to lobby with the Finance Minister Arun Jaitely for a rollback. The growing unrest in public has not kept Naidu quiet. “I have never seen such a worst cash crisis in my life,” he blurted out at a meeting with bankers earlier with a request to the PM to take urgent measures to tide over the liquidity crisis.

 

In an attention-diverting move, Chandrababu, billed as a tech-savvy CM, began batting for digital transactions as a measure to mitigate the liquidity crisis. In this direction, the state government has tied up with 15 mobile wallet and payment gateway apps such as Paytm, Mobikwik, PayUMoney, SBI’s Buddy, Ola money etc enabling the cash-starved people to pay utility bills, property taxes, purchase of goods and transfer money through mobile phone. 

 

The CM has even promised to distribute low-cost smart phones to BPL families as part of encouraging them to go for mobile wallet use. He sought to promote use of e-PoS (point of sale) devices for transactions as a substitute to physical payment of cash. It is estimated that at least 75,000 e-PoS devices are required on a war-footing to enable Naidu’s wish to translate into a reality. The devices are to be made available at the retail business outlets such as liquor shops, rytu bazaars, public utilities like the RTC bus stations and the other shops. It is unlikely to become a reality in the near future as procurement of the devices is a time-taking and cumbersome process.

 

“When Modi’s thoughtless action is rocking the entire country, it is high time for us to salvage ourselves from the sinking boat,” comments a senior leader from the TDP. He further adds, “We are an ally. Still we are not happy with the way how the PM handled the monetary system.” The party senior leaders are using the Jana Chaitanya Yatras and TV debates to call a `spade a spade.’ “Modi-Babu Jodi” was projected as an invincible team to combat the general elections in 2014. Will it come of age? It is time to wait and see.
 

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