Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi’s bombastic attacks on GST rollout have generated a lot of interest. Several political pundits see this as a sign of the emergence of Rahul Gandhi – the politician – which many have been predicting for long. Addressing reporters on Monday, Rahul described Goods and Services Tax (GST) as a “torpedo” that destroyed the economy after demonetisation, which he defined as an “out-and-out disaster”. “The decision of demonetisation was an out-and-out disaster. The Prime Minister (Narendra Modi) is yet not able to understand the pain of the nation,” Rahul said after a meeting of party general secretaries here…I don’t know what they are going to celebrate. November 8 is a sad day for us,” he said referring to the government’s decision to observe it as anti-black money day.
In a bid to attack black money, fake currency and corruption, demonetisation of old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes was announced by PM Narendra Modi on November 8 last year. Modi government has planned to now celebrate the day as anti-black money day across the country.
On Monday, Rahul attended two meetings of top Congress leaders to discuss demonetisation and GST issues. “Today we had two meetings, one on demonetisation and the other on GST. In the demonetisation meeting we discussed how the country has suffered a lot and many small businesses have closed,” Gandhi said.
According to CNN-News18, former PM Manmohan Singh, who was also present at the meeting, said GST was a “fraud” which has hit small traders.
Rahul’s current remarks on GST and state of the economy comes after his months of sustained attacks on Modi government’s economic policies. Reports say the Congress is now planning nationwide protests on the issue of GST and Rahul would himself tour across states to highlight what he calls as a mess created by GST.
However, the Congress has so far not come up with constructive suggestions to make the GST framework better.
GST is undoubtedly the biggest tax reform in India. It was passed by both houses of Parliament, before the rollout, and the Congress had also okayed. Ever since the GST rollout on July 1 this year, the GST Council comprising of representatives of all state governments, including those of the Congress, are meeting regularly to discuss and implement necessary changes to make GST process easy for traders.
The Congress appears to be now banking on anti-GST rhetorics as a poll plank, which the party hopes to result in votes for it in upcoming elections, especially in Gujarat. However, Congress and Rahul have not yet explained as to how it plans to end the negative impact of GST “torpedo” if it will get voted to power, say in Gujarat or at the Centre in 2019.
If we take Rahul’s criticism of GST and rants against the reform seriously, the Congress vice-president may like to rollback GST if given a chance. But, the question remains, will he? Or, how will he address traders’ woes?