Angry textile traders in Surat on Wednesday targeted both BJP and Congress leaders as business remained affected for the twelfth consecutive day amid protest against imposition of 5 per cent GST on the industry. The protesters in the textiles market area on Ring Road chanted “Modi, Modi”, forcing Congress’s Gujarat affairs in-charge Ashok Gehlot to drive away as soon as he reached there to talk to them. They also raised slogans against Navsari MP C R Patil when president of Federation Of Surat Textile Traders Association (FOSTTA) Manoj Agrawal praised the BJP leader for taking up their demands with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
Those involved in the textile industry have been demanding withdrawal of GST or Goods and Services Tax imposed on manufacturing, processing and trading activities. On Thursday, the agitating traders have planned to take out a rally, also comprising 50,000 Patidar women engaged in embellishing sarees, to Surat collector’s office. Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, the youth brigade of the Surat GST Sangharsh Samiti — mostly comprising members FOSTTA — organised a public meeting in the textile market area. It was led by Samiti president Tarachand Kasat, Agrawal, and others.
As the meeting progressed under the flyover opposite the textile market, the convoy of Gehlot reached there, raising Congress flags. Soon, Gehlot left his car and walked towards the dais, but at this point, Kasat told the meeting that “these people were the ones who gave birth to GST in India. We should not support them.” He asked traders not seek any support from “these politicians” and also not to entertain them. Provoked, traders started to chant “Modi, Modi”, forcing Gehlot, former Rajasthan CM, to return to his car and drive away.
Sources in Congress said as a majority of textile traders hail from Rajasthan, Gehlot thought that he should meet them. FOSTTA president Agrawal also had to face anger of traders when he praised BJP MP Patil for taking representations on their demands to Jaitley. The crowd shouted down Agrawal by raising slogans against Patil.
Later, Kasat told the traders: “The markets are closed for more than 10 days, with a single demand — ‘No GST’. We want that the government should rethink and lift 5 per cent GST on the textile trading. After GST was imposed, we had called a meeting of the textile traders and GST experts, including chartered accountants, but nobody gave us a clear picture… Give us more time to understand the GST structure.” Before imposition of GST, the industry was exempted from any form of taxation.