Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi chose to spend the anniversary of demonetisation in Surat, one of the worst impacted by demonetisation and the GST.
Praising Surat as the “central piece” of the 21st century manufacturing system with the potential to challenge (China) in the country, he said “first demonetisation and then GST dealt a blow to this”. He said this holding up a spindle from a powerloom.
Rahul’s Surat tour saw some tense moments at the New Textile Market near the Sahara Darwaja area on Wednesday afternoon, when BJP supporters began shouting “Modi Modi”, as Congress tried to shout them down with “Rahul, Rahul”, just before the Congress leader’s arrival.
Sources said the textile traders of Surat were invited on Tuesday by Union textile minister Smirti Irani to discuss their issues in Delhi on Wednesday, but decided to snub her and meet Rahul instead. Sensing the sentiment, BJP president Amit Shah on Tuesday night met Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association members.
Interacting with textile, embroidery, packaging and diamond unit owners at the Sanjeev Kumar auditorium, Rahul said Wednesday: “If this government puts even 15 per cent of the focus that it does on the top 10-15 industrialists, you (Surat) will create a miracle.”
In this interaction that went live on Facebook, a textile unit owner Shashikant Mashruwala lamented that he had to close down his unit two years ago, because of the dumping of Chinese textile in the market, and that the Union Textile Minister and PM Narendra Modi had ignored his letters of appeal. Rahul said: “Be it Smriti Irani or Narendra Modi, they will pick up their phones in a minute (for the top businessmen), and you who give 50 per cent of the jobs in India, are not in their focus.”
Calling demonetisation “a strategy to convert all the black money of all the thieves in India, to white”, Rahul said: “When he (Modi) makes a mistake he should tell those who had faith in him that demonetisation and GST were mistakes”.
He said “maybe even the Congress did not help or stand by you (the SMEs) the way it should have. May be even our attention was on the bigger industrialists, but I would like to assure you that it is my view that if we support the bigger industrialists, that much support should be extended to small and medium industries as well.”
A businessman, who is in the packaging industry, said: “We cannot complain to you because we have voted for the wrong government. But this time we have a suggestion — this time if you don’t form government it is because of you all… Get your house in order… save the country, we need one more azaadi. To which Rahul said, “that is why I have sent (Ashok) Gehlotji here. Now it might at least seem to you that the Congress party is fighting.”