Depositing Rs 10,000 in zero balance Jan Dhan accounts is expected to cost the government nearly Rs 58,000 crore.
New Delhi: After demonetising Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, the government is considering depositing Rs 10,000 in the Jan Dhan accounts, particularly those with zero balance. This grand, populist gesture of turning a political jumla into a tangible benefit for people, could be carried out before the crucial elections in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Goa.
There are nearly 25 crore Jan Dhan accounts in the country, of which nearly 5.8 crore are zero-balance accounts.
Depositing Rs 10,000 in zero balance Jan Dhan accounts is expected to cost the government nearly Rs 58,000 crore. Analysts have calculated that the government’s demonetisation move will result in a windfall of Rs 3 lakh crore to the RBI which it will pass on to the government.
Highly placed sources said that after targeting black money hoarders, the government “has to send a signal to poor farmers, among others, that the benefits are being passed on to them.” A reward for their hardship, perhaps.
This step, if taken, could be a game-changer and impact Assembly elections expected to be held by April next year.
With regard to the issue of the BJP alienating its core vote bank of traders and middle class because of the shock announcement of demonetisation on November 8, sources revealed that the saffron high command is of the view that while one can win one election with middle class support, for an encore it’s the garib and the kisan whose support is essential.
“To win subsequent general elections, one has to reach out to the poor and the farmers,” a senior BJP strategist told this newspaper. It may be noted that the main agenda of the Modi government at the moment is “empowerment of the poor.”
Saffron pundits are worried about the impact of the political gamble the Prime Minister has taken before the crucial Assembly polls. Rural economy across the country, which runs mainly on cash, has been severely hit following the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
Reports pouring in from Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and other states indicate that as a consequence of demonetisation, farmers have no cash to buy manure or seeds ahead of the cropping season. The Punjab agricultural market has registered a downward trend in Ludhiana.
The saffron high command feels that if the government loses UP polls, the Prime Minister’s image and credibility could be “permanently damage”.
The government is aware of the misuse of Jan Dhan accounts and that’s why it is considering sharing a part of the windfall with those who hold zero-balance accounts.
Jan Dhan accounts have been under the scanner since demonetisation was announced. Any “spurt” in deposits, even those exceeding Rs 50,000, into the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan accounts is being probed to ascertain the origin of the money.
Stepping up its anti-corruption agenda, the government is now likely to go after benami properties. All the concerned agencies have been pressed into action to identify benami properties and start investigating them.