Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi pulled a fast one on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is known for his penchant for acronyms, when he described the Goods and Services Tax as the Gabbar Singh Tax, a take-off off on the villain of the same name in Bollywood blockbuster Sholay.
‘‘The GST is nothing but a Gabbar Singh Tax that has ruined countless small business men. It needs to be changed or else the country will suffer greatly,” he added.
The Congress vice-president was speaking at a public rally in the state capital here on Monday. The Gujarat ‘navsarjan-janadesh sammelan,’ which formally marked the entry of OBC leader Alpesh Thakore into the Congress, saw the All India Congress vice chief target the prime minister saying that there are entire communities out in the streets in Gujarat, agitating against injustices meted out to them.
‘‘This is a peculiar situation, where almost the entire state is out agitating. Modiji has sowed so much misery into common lives, that they have been forced to get up and take up cudgels against the government”, he added.
Apparently happy at having managed to net Alpesh Thakore, one of the triumvirate of youth leaders heading ethnic groups that have become an eyesore for the ruling party, Gandhi reached out to the remaining two as well. ‘‘Like you (Thakore) there are two more youth leaders, Hardik and Jignesh, who have been fighting for justice.
‘‘Every Gujarati has a conscience that he heeds. This yearning can neither be suppressed nor purchased. Pay them what you want, one crore, a thousand crores. The voice of Gujarat cannot be bought with all the monies of the world”, he said. The reference apparently was to allegations by Patidar agitation leader Narendra Patel who alleged at a press conference that BJP had sought to buy him out with an offering of Rs one crore.
The rally, which was a demonstration of Alpesh Thakore’s strength (Thakore sena), for the benefit of the Congress vice-president, saw Gandhi in his elements as he raised the issue of youth unemployment, demonetisation and farmers debt. ‘‘The Rs 35,000 crores given as loan to the Tata Nano project during the chief ministership of Modiji would have been sufficient to wipe out the entire debt of farmers in the state,” he added.
Gandhi urged Prime Minister Modi to at least utter one word about the rise in fortunes of Jay Shah, son of BJP president Amit Shah. Alpesh Shah, who had spearheaded an agitation against the BJP government in Gujarat through his Thakore sena and SC-ST adhikar manch, came to the fore with his drive against the rampant sale of liquor in a prohibition bound state, which was destroying the lives of countless youth, while being the single largest source of corruption in the police force. He had subsequently enlarged his demands to cover numerous other issues.
Speaking at the rally, Thakore said that he chose to join the Congress after conducting a survey of over 25 lakh families, including two lakh Patidar families, and made his choice after they overwhelmingly asked him to enter politics and join the Congress.