BJP president Amit Shah late Tuesday night held talks with a group of textile traders over a dinner meeting at a farm house in the city. Textile traders in the city have been protesting the imposition of GST on their previously untaxed business. Shah’s meeting with textile traders came a day before Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the city on Wednesday — on the first anniversary of demonetisation — when he is scheduled to meet the protesting cloth merchants, powerloom owners and workers, besides diamond traders.
Coincidentally, a section of textile traders has received an invitation to meet Union Textiles Minister Smriti Irani in New Delhi to “discuss issues”. On Tuesday night, BJP president Amit Shah, after a meeting with party leaders at Sanjiv Kumar Auditorium, drove straight to the farm house to meet members of the Federation of Surat Textile Traders Association. Following the meeting, a BJP source said, Shah listened to the issues raised by the traders and assured to find a solution.
The BJP has intensified its efforts to placate the textile trading community after Rahul, while concluding his Navsarjan Yatra in south Gujarat with a rally in Varachha here on November 3, had announced that he would again visit the city on November 8, the first anniversary of demonetisation, to observe “Black Day” and meet those involved in the textile and the diamond businesses.
A day after Rahul promised to visit Surat again, Praveen Khandelwal, GST committee official from Delhi, visited the city on November 4 to meet members of the Federation of Art Silk Weaving Association, powerloom sector, textile traders and a few others. Khandelwal’s visit was described as one “to get information on the issues faced by the people in the industry.” On the same day, Khandelwal also invited the textile trade bodies to come to Delhi and meet Union Textile Minister Smriti Irani on November 8.
Some trade bodies have accepted the invitation. Among them are Federation of Indian Art Silk Weaving Industry Association (FIASWI), Pandesara Powerloom Association and Textile Velvet Association. FISWAI chairman Bharat Gandhi said, “We have got oral invitation from Praveen Khandelwal and we will go to Delhi to meet Union Minister Smriti Irani at 9.30 am on Wednesday. We will raise the issues faced by the industry faces, hoping that some solution may come out.”
On the other hand, Federation of Surat Textile traders Association president Manoj Agrawal pointed out that Irani had refused to meet textile traders during her last visit to Surat as well as in Delhi. Agrawal said, “We have not received a written invitation from the Union minister. Earlier when the agitation was on, our GST Sangharsh Samithi (which has been leading the textile traders protest against GST) tried to meet her and even our team was in Delhi, but she denied to meet and our team members left from her door steps. The textile traders usually vote for the BJP, despite this, our issues are not being looked into. The Congress leader is coming directly to meet us at our door steps, so some of the traders and presidents of different textile markets agreed to give their market place for the meeting.”
There are over 165 textile trading markets in the city where over 65,000 traders conduct business. The daily turnover is around Rs 130 crore.
Meanwhile, Congress leaders in the city claimed they have been facing problems in arranging venues for Rahul’s interaction with different sections of the textile industry in Surat. According to the party leaders, members of dyeing, printing, powerloom units and embroidery association have refused to host interactions with Rahul on their premises.
Party leaders said that Rahul, who will arrive in Surat at 10 am, will drive straight to Nirman Industrial estate at Ved road, where he will meet powerloom unit owners and workers. He will later visit Shree Sai Dyeing and Printing factory on AK Road, accompanied by a few mill owners and labourers. He will also visit three textile embroidery units in Khodiyar Nagar for “an interaction with owners and labourers,” a Congress leader said.
An owner of a dyeing facility said, “We do not want to be seen as hosting Rahul Gandhi. Even if we give our space for a meeting or meet him, we may have to face dire consequences from the state government machinery. However, places where Rahul Gandhi will visit also have been kept top secret except meeting with traders of different association at Sanjiv Kumar Auditorium.”
The Congress has kept secret the venue for meeting with diamond traders in Varachha.