As the Modi Government went into top gear on the GST bill on the eve of the Parliament session, Rahul Gandhi today said the Congress strongly supports the legislation, but it should reach out to the Opposition and address three key issues raised by the party.
Spelling out the Congress’ stand on key bills, including GST, during an interaction with girl students at a prestigious college here, Gandhi also made a stinging attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, charging that it was “much worse” than a “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” with the economy in the doldrums.
“Do we want the GST. Are we ready to compromise on GST. Are we ready to talk on GST? Absolutely. Are we going to accept just being thrown aside, no. So we are not trying to stall Parliament. We want the GST that suits the country and benefits the country and we are ready to have that conversation without a problem,” Gandhi said. The Winter session of Parliament is scheduled to start tomorrow.
In his 45-minute interaction with Mount Carmel College students, the Congress leader also touched upon the issue of “rising intolerance”, reignited after Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan’s controversial remarks, and said it “disturbs” him as an Indian, emphasising that “live and let live” was the country’s biggest strength.
On GST, Gandhi said there were three differences between BJP and Congress, which related to cap on tax to be charged, dispute resolution and one per cent tax on inter-state sales (doing away with it).
“If the government wants to pass the GST, the government has to accept the fact that the Congress party sits in Parliament with 20 per cent of the national vote. That the Congress party has a view,” he said, adding they are fighting for a GST that suits and benefits the country.
Speaking to reporters later, Gandhi said the Congress would raise in Parliament the issues of “rising intolerance”, which was “very disturbing”, GST and also Prime Minister’s “silence” on various issues.
Attacking Modi, he told the students that “the central idea of the PM, which I contest I don’t agree with, is that he believes that India can be run through the PMO. He believes that – Narendra Modiji himself will transform India. Don’t believe that.”
“It is pretty apparent that suit-boot is failing. It’s completely failed because there are no jobs created. The economy is in the doldrums…..So, the country basically is not moving,” Gandhi said.
Recalling his meeting with 15 of the “biggest investors” from the world a few days ago, Gandhi said he asked them if they were happy with Modi and what was going on.
“They looked at me. They said no. Nothing is happening. We are shocked. It is not working and my answer to them was it won’t work.”
The interaction was the first in the series Gandhi proposes to hold across campuses in the country as part of his outreach to students.
On the intolerance issue, Rahul Gandhi said “just blanket attacking” doesn’t give a solution. “I think the most important thing is to listen to people. See, shouting at people is very easy… but it is much more powerful to listen to people… and let us have conversation.
“Same way hating someone is the easiest thing to do, loving someone is much more powerful than hating. So I feel the more conversation the better it is. The less nastiness the better… it is just a different philosophy.”
“I don’t like what is going with regard to intolerance. It disturbs me as an Indian. I don’t want when a young Indian is shut up and bullied. It disturbs all of you …It is bullying. It is somebody who feels that he can push someone down and bully. It is very unpleasant it is not going to do good for the country.”
Asked by a student about his pet “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” jibe, Gandhi said the government was not creating two crore jobs and “all the government is doing right now is giving contracts to large business people and that also very limited large business people.”
“Five or six or seven business people close to their dispensation and you know the names. I don’t have to say the names. It is actually much worse than a suit-boot sarkar. It is five or six suit-boot ki sarkar,” he said.
On the Congress joining the government in Bihar by “compromising” on corruption, an apparent reference to RJD, Gandhi said, “In Bihar it is generally accepted that Nitish Kumar is a relatively honest leader and clean leader.”
“Is that fair to say? Yes or no?” he asked the audience and added, “we support Nitish Kumar. Laluji is not in the government and Lalu Yadavji’s sons who are in the government made a statement yesterday saying zero tolerance for corruption,” he said.
Gandhi said corruption must be got rid of and the UPA government had given the Right To Information Act which is the single biggest tool against corruption.
“Today, our PM has basically killed RTI. You will soon see exactly the type of corruption that is going on in the central government.”
“We will show in question of time what exactly the central government is doing. The BJP is not doing anything to remove corruption. As far as our alliance in Bihar, it is with Nitish Kumar who has a decent record on corruption.”
Asked by reporters later about most of those in the audience giving a resounding “yes” on the success of Swach Bharat inside the auditorium, Gandhi said, “It was not clear.”
“On Swacch Bharat half the room said nothing has happened. Some people said something has happened. Make In India some people said something has not happened and some people said something has happened.”