Rahul Gandhi in Gujarat: No ease of doing business for small traders after GST

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Ahmedabad: Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday said that the rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) on top of the demonetisation exercise had made life difficult for small businesses, taking aim at the central government for celebrating India’s rise up the World Bank’s Doing Business rankings.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley, Gandhi said, should take time out to meet small businesses and find out if the situation had really improved on the ground.

“Everyone will tell you that there is no ease of doing business for small traders after demonetization and GST rollout,” he said in Jambusar, Gujarat, at a rally of farmers and traders.

“The only ones who are not complaining are a handful of influential industrialists..,” Gandhi said.

On Tuesday, the World Bank survey showed that India had climbed a record 30 notches to the 100th position in the ease of business rankings, helped by a slew of reforms in taxation, licensing, investor protection and bankruptcy resolution.

Gandhi is on his first visit to Gujarat after the Election Commission on 25 October scheduled elections to the 182-member state assembly for 9 and 14 December.

During his three-day visit, Gandhi is set to cover nearly three dozen assembly seats, a majority of them in the tribal heartland, a traditional stronghold of the Congress that has seen a major shift towards the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Gandhi kicked off the third phase of the Congress party’s Navsarjan Yatra from Jambusar in Bharuch district, targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the finance minister for their handling of the economy.

Other Backward Classes (OBC) leader Alpesh Thakor, who joined the Congress recently, shared the stage with Gandhi on Wednesday.

The 8 November invalidation of high-value banknotes, a part of the government’s fight against black money, Gandhi said, had hit small traders, workers, farmers and small businesses as they mainly dealt in cash.

He also repeated his criticism of GST, calling it a “Gabbar Singh Tax,”—a reference to the cruel bandit played by the late Amjad Khan in the cult Hindi movie Sholay.

“They (BJP) talked a lot about Swiss bank accounts. Now they have been in power for the last three years. Tell me how many Swiss bank account holders are behind bars? Give me the name of at least one person whom Modiji has sent to jail?” he asked.

Gandhi said while China provides employment to 50,000 young every day, India provides jobs to only 450 people a day under Modi’s Make in India drive. “Over 30 lakh are unemployed in Gujarat alone,” he said.

Meanwhile, BJP president Amit Shah is set to go on a whirlwind election campaign from 4 November in Kutch district where he will address a public rally before travelling to Saurashtra’s tribal belt for a five-day campaign, a BJP functionary said on condition of anonymity.