Raghavendra Singh, 29, has recently begun working as an Uber driver in Lucknow. As he pulls out of the local airport (which boasts a poster declaring it “the world’s No 2 airport”), Mulayam Singh Yadav towers on a hoarding near the over-head tracks for the city’s new metro. The poster, even from the ground, is visibly rippled, struggling against the wind to keep its place, twinning the politician’s desperate attempt to prevent his son, Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, from hijacking their Samajwadi Party.
Raghavendra Singh says that in 2012, he voted for the Samajwadi Party. This time around, he says, he will switch to the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has made it clear that his shock demonetisation drive or note-bandi will form the bedrock of his campaign for Uttar Pradesh. While the opposition says it will highlight what is insists is the large failure of the scheme and the cash shortage it created, Raghavendra Singh says he has no complaints. “Poor people had no cash earlier…and they have no cash now…so how are we worse off?” he asks. “There is Paytm now, people are using mobile phones for payments. In any case, people don’t spend much more in villages – not more than Rs. 1,000 – 2,000. Maybe it is the big businessmen who are feeling the pinch,” he says hopefully.
He is also impressed with the Jan Dhan or zero-balance accounts enabled by the centre. “There are everywhere in our villages,” he says, “along with LPG subsidies.”
In a series of recent speeches, PM Modi has declared the poor will witness a surge of benefits from the notes ban. Raghavendra Singh does not care that of an estimated 15.4 lakh crores of abolished currency, nearly all has reportedly been turned in. The opposition says this proves no black money has been unearthed or forcibly pushed out of the economy. “They say that”, Raghavendra Singh says, “but in our villages, you see – at every square, people are gathered around TV screens watching Modi’s speeches. We watch them on YouTube too. Everyone believes him.”
“When Manmohan Singh spoke, he used English. Nobody understood a word he says. Modi, he speaks to us. And we listen,” says the driver. It’s clear he has been following the PM’s comments closely. “With the notes ban, the government is collecting more taxes, budgets will increase,” he says, echoing what the PM has been pledging at his public meetings.