Updated: October 4, 2021 1:00:44 am
Rajya Sabha MP and former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijay Singh launched a fresh attack on the BJP over the issue of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in e-commerce and demanded a probe by a Supreme Court judge into the allegations of lobbying by Amazon.
In a press conference held Sunday at Rajiv Gandhi Bhawan in Ahmedabad, Singh said the current situation of the economy is not hidden from the people of Gujarat, a state that has seen many businesses and entrepreneurs.
“Since Independence, small and medium businesses have never been with the Congress. They always supported Jan Sangh, and later the BJP. However, in the past few years, the attention of the Modi government has diverted from small and medium businesses to big corporations and his approach has turned soft towards the multi-national companies,” Singh said.
Singh was reacting to a recent report that Amazon spent about Rs 8,546 crore or USD 1.2 billion in legal and professional expenses in the country between 2018 and 2020.
However, in a letter to Union Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal, Amazon had called the reports inaccurate that “appears to stem from a misunderstanding” of some filings.
“Now, legal fees are either court fees or fees to the advocates. Even the annual budget of the Law Ministry is only Rs 1,100 crore, and advocates’ fees cannot be that high. We demand an investigation into the allegations by a judge of the Supreme Court. A probe would reveal as to which political party, officials and politicians accept bribes,” Singh said.
The Congress leader also alleged lobbying in the deal between Amazon and Future Group in 2019. “In 2019, when 100 per cent FDI was implemented, Amazon had entered into a deal with Future Group. They recently stated that they spent thousands of crores in legal fees for their deal with Future Group. Advocates’ fees cannot be so high. So, there have been allegations of bribing the Indian government on a large scale and it must be investigated by an independent agency,” said Singh.
He added that Narendra Modi’s approach towards FDI has changed after he became the prime minister. “Earlier, they used to oppose FDI saying that our small retailers will starve. However, in 2016, the government proposed 100 per cent FDI. This was a straightforward attack on the small and medium businesses that were destroyed due to the entry of e-commerce giants,” he said.
“PM Modi has been pushing the digital economy, but how many Indians today have access to smartphones? A recent report from the Reserve Bank of India has said at the time of demonetisation, there were 17.8 lakh crore currency notes in circulation in the market and today that number has become 27 lakh crores. So the question is, from where did the additional nine lakh crore currency notes emerge?” he asked.
On GST, Singh said the Congress will always oppose BJP’s decision on the new taxation policy. “Our GST model proposal was to introduce a maximum of one or two slabs for the convenience of businesses. However, the BJP has introduced 5-6 slabs plus additional cess in the GST. Small businesses are facing great problems in filing GST digitally in remote areas of India,” Singh added.
He also sought a Supreme Court probe into the Mundra port drug haul case, saying he did not trust the National Investigation Agency because several accused in blast cases were acquitted after the Modi government came to power. How can one trust if the prosecution starts speaking on behalf of the defendants, Singh asked.
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