Addressing a well-attended rally here on Monday, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi described the GST as ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’, and said Prime Minister Narendra Modi had hurt the economy and rendered lakhs of people jobless by wielding the tax and demonetisation as “two axes” one after the other, “without foresight”.
The rally was jointly organised by the Congress and OBC leader Alpesh Thakor’s Gujarat Kshatriya Thakor Sena. Rahul, who began his speech with slogans of “Jai Mata Ki”, “Jai Sardar” and “Jai Bhim”, admitted Thakor into the Congress at the meeting. Putting a Congress scarf around his neck, the Congress leader said, “There is not a single community, single individual, who is not associated with one or the other agitation in Gujarat. The entire state is on the path of agitation.”
Turning towards Thakor, who earlier urged the audience to remain silent to listen to him, Rahul said, “Alpesh is asking you to remain silent, but I am sure people will not keep silent, because Modiji has harassed them so much. Hardik (Patel), (Jignesh) Mevani will not be silent either. They have a voice which is the voice of every Gujarati. And this voice can neither be suppressed, nor bought. You can offer Rs 1 crore, Rs 5 crore, Rs 100 crore, entire Gujarat’s budget or the budget of entire India, or the wealth of the entire world, yet you cannot suppress or buy this voice. Even the British had tried to suppress the voice of the Gujaratis. First, they tried in South Africa, then in Gujarat and the rest of India, but the people of Gujarat — Gandhi and Sardar (Patel) — threw the superpower out of India… Modiji, there is no price tag for this voice. Modiji you cannot purchase Gujarat’s voice.”
Earlier in the day, Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti leader Narendra Patel alleged he was offered Rs 1 crore by the BJP to join the party.
Talking about demonetisation, Rahul said, “One fine morning, Modiji said, ‘I am your Prime Minister, I don’t like currency notes of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination, I want to ban them at 12 in the night… Ha ha ha ha!’… And he did it, without consulting anybody.”
The PM initially did not realise his “mistake”, Rahul said. “But on December 30, wiping his tears, Modiji said that if black money is not recovered, you can hang me in public.”
“Do farmers buy seeds with cash or cheques or online through their mobile? Are NREGA labourers paid online or in cash? Do small shopkeepers accept cash or online payment?” Rahul asked the audience, and the crowd, mostly comprising farmers and villagers, clapped and replied loudly, “cash”.
“Modiji did not stop at that,” the Congress vice-president added, saying the PM next brought in the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Pointing out that the Congress originally conceived of the tax, Rahul said the party had advised Modi “to simplify the GST and cap the rate at 18 per cent”. But “Modiji did not listen”, and like notebandi, implemented the GST at midnight, “resulting in loss of jobs running into lakhs”.
He said he wanted to explain why Gujarat was angry. “There is no government for the people for the past 22 years in Gujarat (of BJP rule). The govenrment here runs for only five to 10 industrialists… Modiji tells people his ‘Mann ki Baat’, but today I want to tell you Gujarat ke mann ki baat.”
Addressing the state’s unemployment problem, Rahul said, “Modiji and the BJP government in Gujarat have allowed big industrialists to set up private universities and higher education institutions. But these private institutions demand Rs 10-15 lakh for admissions. And when youths come out of here after getting degrees, they don’t get jobs.”
A Congress government would be a government of the poor, labourers, farmers, shopkeepers and youths, Rahul said.
He also asked why while the Centre had distributed benefits of “Rs 1,20,000 crore” to industrialists in the last four years, it had not agreed to farm loan waivers. “The Gujarat govenrment under Modi gave Rs 30,000 crore to one company for manufacutirng Nano car, which is sufficient to write off entire farm loans of Gujarat. But how many Nano cars have been built from this money? No Nano cars are today seen on Gujarat roads. Where has the Rs 30,000 crore gone, Modiji?” he asked.
Raising the controversy around BJP president Amit Shah’s son Jay Shah’s firm, Rahul referred to Modi’s oft-repeated slogan ‘Na khaoonga, na khilaoonga’. “Jay Shah’s company zoomed like a rocket goes up in the air… There is no example of such a company rising so fast in the country.”
He added, “Jay zyada kha gaya (Jay ate too much). But will Modiji speak on it?… People are asking him to speak just one sentence but Modiji will not speak. Modiji ne ab khilana shuru kar diya hai. Yeh Gujarat ki vastavikta hai (Modi has now started letting people ‘eat’, that is the reality of Gujarat).”
About Modi’s claims, Rahul said, “Whenever a university is built, Modiji says ‘I have built it’. A rocket goes up, he says, ‘I did it’. But the truth is that it is the combined strength of people that helps make a thing, be it a shop or something else.”