Amid fears that the BJP was losing the support of traders in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured them on Monday that all hurdles over the Goods and Services Tax would be resolved. Not willing to give his main rival any advantage over the issue, the PM said the Congress was “equally responsible” in the GST decision.
With the Election Commission yet to declare the dates for the Gujarat polls, the PM took the opportunity to give Gujaratis a “new year’s gift” and announced the date when his “dream project” — the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro Ferry Service — would be inaugurated. “I will return on October 22 to inagurate the Ghogha-Dahej Ro-Ro Ferry Service. This will be my new year’s gift to you,” he said.
Mr Modi, who is the big hope for the BJP, now fighting its “toughest” electoral battle in Gujarat, presided over the finale of the “Gujarat Gaurav Mahasammelan” and addressed a mega-rally at Gandhinagar in the afternoon, where he also launched a fierce attack on the Congress. He declared that this was a fight between Vikasbad (progress) and Vanshbad (dynasty). The PM also evoked “Gujarati pride” by calling the Congress “anti-Gujarat”, and a party which always acted against leading Gujarati leaders ranging from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Morarji Desai to Madhavsinh Solanki.
This was one of those speeches where the Prime Minister took potshots at Jawaharlal Nehru and indicated that he (Nehru) was “rattled” by the emergence of the Jan Sangh even then. “I heard stories that every time Nehru had attended the meeting of Jyoti Sangh, he would keep referring to it as Jan Sangh. The Jan Sangh was in its infancy but even then Nehru was rattled by its emergence…”
Making it clear that he stood by BJP chief Amit Shah despite the Opposition’s demand to “sack” him over the controversy surrounding his son Jay Amit Shah, the PM said it was “Amit Shah who is solely responsibile for the BJP’s electoral success across the country”. In fact, he declared Mr Shah as the “man of the match”. Looking at the PM, the BJP chief humbly folded his hands.
Mr Modi, who began speaking in Hindi, switched over to Gujarati to connect with local traders and voters on the GST issue. The BJP has been getting reports that anger was brewing among local businessmen and traders over the contentious policy decision. Mr Modi tried to empathise with the traders and assured them that he was looking into all aspects of GST. “From day one, I have said we will review GST after three months and we made changes. If there are still hurdles, we will try and resolve them too. I am confident our traders will understand,” the PM said, adding: “I am assuring traders. This is my promise.”
With the Congress targeting him over GST, the PM told the crowd that the decision to implement the reform was not his alone, and the Congress was an equal partner. “The Congress is an equal partner in GST decisions. They should not spread lies on GST,” he said.
The GST, incidentally, has been linked to another shock decision — demonetisation — which is being regarded as a contributing factor towards the economic slowdown. The PM yet again defended the decision and attacked the Congress and the Opposition parties for criticising the move. “Scientific analysis of black money data is on. More than two lakh companies have been shut down. We are probing 5,000 of these companies. Should I leave these thieves?” Mr Modi asked.
Saying the Congress was “addicted to corruption”, the PM dared that party to “fight elections on the plank of development”, and went on to say that “development is winning, the dynasty is losing”.
Hitting out at the “Vikas gando thayo” (Progress has gone crazy) campaign, Mr Modi accused the Congress of “abusing vikas” (progress). In an indirect reference to the Karnataka minister who used obscene words against him, Mr Modi said he could “never imagine the Congress could stoop so low”. He said the Congress was a party of dynasts while the BJP was a party of workers, and made it clear that for him, “the nation is bigger than the party”.