'Congress, Gandhis hate Gujarat': Modi deploys time-tested rhetoric of Gujarati pride to take heat off GST woes
In one final call to the Gujarat electorate embattled by the twin blows of demonetisation and GST, Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have assured the trading community in Gandhinagar on Monday that he would ensure all their complaints on the new tax regime are resolved but simultaneously washed his hands of the issue calling it a “collective decision.”
The message is crystal clear that the Prime Minister’s Office is not responsible for all the mess around GST, but it is he who is intervening to ensure that quick correctives are taken.
Modi, who was addressing a massive gathering of party workers near Gandhinagar in Hindi, switched over to Gujarati to talk to the huge trading community of the state and stated that all political parties, including the Congress, together decided to bring in the GST regime.
"It is not BJP alone, all political parties, including the Congress party, and all states are partners in this (GST) decision. The Centre is only a 30th part in the entire GST Council," the prime minister said.
And then, he quickly picked up the gauntlet stating that he had promised to review the decision after three months and he not only fulfilled this but is actively involved in resolving all issues. Stressing that nobody is against the new tax regime but did not want it to be cumbersome, Modi said, “I am sending suggestions to the GST Council to make it simple.” And things were moving, he added.
“I have given my word to the traders that I will not allow them to suffer,” he said.
In a state election where the ruling BJP has the predicament of depending completely on the persona and performance of the Prime Minister, who is no longer their chief minister, Modi is increasingly having to account for his decisions and rhetoric.
The BJP ruling Gujarat non-stop since 1995, barring an aberration of over a year of rebel leader Shankersinh Vaghela’s government in 1997, has been invincible in the urban regions of the state but the GST, preceded by demonetisation, has hit hard its massive traditional mercantile voter and has invited his wrath like never before.
The BJP just cannot afford to ignore the urban trading class in a scenario when the Congress, for the first time in many years, is putting up a semblance of not only a tough but even an equal fight in the rural and semi-urban areas. The party desperately needs nothing short of the vintage Modi magic.
Small wonder but this was Modi's fourth visit to Gujarat in as many weeks and eighth this year, while he is to come one more time on 22 October to announce yet another “dream project and a New Year gift” in the form of a Ro-Ro ferry service between Saurashtra and South Gujarat.
It is believed that the Election Commission will announce the Gujarat election dates any time after this, but even if it does so before 22 October, Modi has already given details of the ferry service is going to be all about. Smart way, indeed, of beating the electoral code of conduct that prevents the ruling party to announce new schemes and sops once the polls are declared.
With frequent references to Modi in his speech, the prime minister made a spirited attempt to once again hardsell his no-nonsense, zero-tolerance-to corruption image that worked wonders for him in Gujarat.
“I am determined I will not allow the panja (Congress symbol hand)” to land on dirty money,” he said, adding in Gujarati, “They (Congress and the corrupt) know Modi is not going to spare anyone……. Many people managed to push in black money in the banks, but they didn’t know that Modi has attached a rope from his behind.”
“My economic sleuths and data miners unearthed Rs 3,00,000 crore without any address, but now the government has their addresses”. Modi had this traditional triumph writ large on his face when he said this, and continued.
“We found 2.10 lakh shell companies and we took a sample of 5,000 cases. We discovered that in 15 days from November 8 when demonetization was introduced they deposited Rs 4,000 crore,” Modi said.
“Imagine, what will Modi Sarkar do when it gets details of all shell companies,” he said. Demonetisation was a huge success, according to him, and taunted the Congress that they will observe November 8 as Black Money Day, but the BJP is calling it Black Money Freedom Day.
Modi deployed his time-tested rhetoric of Gujarati pride yet again by speaking of the “pathological hatred of the Nehru-Gandhi family and the Congress towards Gujarat”, just like he had linked the strong criticism of his government after the 2002 communal conflagration as an assault “by anti-Gujarat forces” on the collective self-esteem of the people of the state.
In 2002 he had stated that everyone speaking against the Gujarat Government ruled by him was speaking essentially against the Gujarati pride endowed by Sardar Patel. Then also, Modi had taken out a state-wide Gujarat Gaurav Yatra.
On Monday, Modi asserted, speaking at the conclusion of the 4,000-plus km BJP’s Gujarat Gaurav Yatra, “Gujarat has always been an eyesore for this party (Congress). History is witness to the way this family and this party treated Sardar Patel, his daughter Maniben Patel, Morarji Desai, Babubhai Jashbhai Patel and even Madhavsinh Solanki who won them maximum 149 seats in the state. In every way, this family and this party have hated Gujarat.”
He continued, “Pandit Nehru laid the foundation stone of the Sardar Sarovar Narmada Project, but the family and the party delayed it only because the name of Sardar Patel was associated with it, since it was his brainchild.”
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