It is late in the evening when Kamlesh Paswan, the BJP lawmaker from Bansgaon in eastern Uttar Pradesh walks to an ATM queue in his constituency. Here, his supporters say, the cash crunch has eased in the last few days because fresh cash has come in.
One of the BJP workers says Rs 1,650 crore came to the district two days ago, and now banks are allowing withdrawals up to Rs 50,000. Across this region, we heard similar accounts of a rumoured infusion of currency.
When we asked for the source of the information, the BJP said it’s based on stories in local newspapers in the past few days, coinciding with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s high decibel campaign in Uttar Pradesh.
The only media report on it is a December 17 dispatch by a news agency, which said Rs 5,000 crore has been flown into Uttar Pradesh on a special plane by the Reserve Bank of India. They attributed this information to an unnamed official.
Soon after landing at the Chaudhary Charan Singh international airport, the money was wheeled into the regional RBI office. The currency was sent to Lucknow for further distribution across the ATMs and banks includes Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 notes. The cash was distributed evenly between the RBI offices in Kanpur and Lucknow.
The state has been reeling under a grave cash crunch since the November 8 demonetisition of higher currency notes, leading to chaos, anger and lawlessness at many places.
When NDTV, a private news channel, checked with the RBI, the spokesperson clarified that the bank does not release any information on how much cash it distributes to states.
So, essentially, the question remains whether it is done on actual requirement or with certain political considerations.
It is also important to note how does the RBI decide on this allocation.
However, the theory is kept alive by BJP’s local lawmakers, one of whom indicated there may have been a political nudge to the RBI.
“The president of our party (Amit Shah) met us and took feedback from all the MPs,” said Lallu Singh, BJP lawmaker from Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh.
Singh added that they urged the party leader to ease people’s problems by sending more cash.
“We mainly asked Amit Shah that the process of transferring money from the RBI be done more quickly so that the difficulties being faced by the people come to an end. He said that all preparations for that have been done and it (money) will be sent,” said Singh.
On the ground, evidence to suggest an infusion of cash is mixed. At a State Bank of India branch in Kaudia village, two hours from Gorakhpur in East UP, women queuing outside the bank said they have been there since 4 am. We met them at around noon, 8 hours later, and they had barely moved forward.
One of them claims to being mistreated by the bank staff. “The manager pushed me and grabbed my throat,” said one of the women.
Others claimed the situation had improved marginally in the past two days but that they still were not getting the full amount of cash.
Soon, a trunk of cash appeared at the bank branch. Heavily locked, it was dragged inside the bank’s chained gate. It remains unclear whether this is a part of the supposed election-time influx of new currency.
That seemed of little concern to the crowd as they surged forward, desperate to get a handful of their own hard-earned money.
Local BJP leaders denied any favouritism linked to the elections. “If it (cash) has come for Gorakhpur, then naturally the same has been provided for the rest of the country as well,” said Kamlesh Paswan, the Bansgaon lawmaker.