Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi dismissed a World Bank report on India’s improved ‘ease of doing business’ status and asked Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to meet small traders to understand the reality.
On the first day of his three-day campaign tour of south Gujarat, Gandhi also hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of black money and said demonetisation had destroyed the country’s economy.
Stepping up his attack on the Centre and the BJP-led state government, Gandhi covered a wide range of topics in his public rally, including GST, caste politics and corporate favouritism.
Targeting the finance minister, a day after the release of the World Bank report, he said, “Yesterday Arun Jaitleyji said some foreign organisation has certified that India has considerably improved in ease of doing business.”
The finance minister, Gandhi added, should meet small and mid-sized businessman for five-10 minutes and ask if the situation had really improved.
“The entire country will shout and say ease of doing business is absent, you have destroyed it, your demonetisation and GST have ruined it,” Gandhi said.
Earlier in the day, Gandhi had put out a tweet in Hindi, taking off from a famous Ghalib verse to say that Jaitley was deluding himself.
“Sabko maloom hai ‘ease of doing business’ ki haqeeqat, lekin khud ko khush rakhne ke liye ‘Dr Jaitley’ ye khayal achha hai (everybody knows the reality of ease of doing business, but this thought, Dr Jaitley, is good to keep yourself happy).”
According to the World Bank, India’s rank on the ‘ease of doing business’ scale has risen from 130 to 100 this year, helped by a slew of reforms in taxation, licensing, investor protection and bankruptcy resolution.
Discussing the issue of black money, Gandhi claimed that Modi had failed to understand that a major portion of black money was in the form of gold, land or parked in Swiss banks.
“On November 8 last year, Modiji banned Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. Small traders, shop keepers and farmers, they all deal in cash. They are not thieves. Their cash was not black money. But Modiji failed to understand that all the cash is not black money and all the black money is not in cash.”
“They (BJP) talked a lot about Swiss bank accounts. Now they are in power for the last three years. You tell me how many Swiss bank account holders are in jail? Give me the name of one person Modiji has sent to jail?” he asked.
Demonetisation, he said, had hit small traders, workers, farmers and small businesses as they dealt in cash.
“This decision destroyed our economy. Note ban reduced our GDP by 2 per cent,” he said.
The entire country had been reduced to tears, but the prime minister was not ready to accept that demonetisation was a huge mistake, Gandhi said.
He also attacked Modi over the implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), reiterating that he called it “Gabbar Singh Tax” because it snatched the hard earned money of poor citizens.
“The traders are facing immense difficulties in filling up three forms per month. Due to GST, small businesses incurred huge losses,” Gandhi said.
Addressing the cheering crowd, he said Gujarat was the only state where no community was happy and named OBC leader Alpesh Thakor, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel and Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani to buttress his point.
Thakor, who recently joined Congress, shared the dais with Gandhi.
“Not a single community in Gujarat is happy. Be it Alpesh, Hardik or Jignesh, all sections of the society are angry. The only ones who are not complaining are five-10 influential industrialists… They are the only ones who are supporting Modiji and BJP,” Gandhi said.
He claimed the loan given to Tata Motors for the Nano plant was enough to waive the debt burden of Gujarat farmers.
“The farmers in Gujarat are crying for help, as they want farm loan waivers. Modiji (as then Gujarat CM) gave loans worth Rs 33,000 crore for Tata Nano. He even gave your land to the company. I want to tell you that the government could have waived all your farm loans with that Rs 33,000 crore,” the Congress vice president said.
“Though Modiji gave that much money to the company, you will hardly see any Nano car on roads. This is Modiji’s Gujarat model, where you do not get anything back despite giving that much money to corporates.”
Gandhi also alleged that key sectors such as education and health have been gifted to corporates.
Taking at Modi’s ‘Make in India’ initiative, he said the entire focus of the government is on five-10 corporates who receive all facilities such as land, water and electricity.
“While China provides employment to 50,000 youth every day, India provides jobs to just 450 people per day under Modiji’s ‘Make in India’ drive. Over 30 lakh are unemployed in Gujarat alone. This is happening because everything is being done for some five-10 industrialists only,” he alleged.