Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday said the Narendra Modi government's badly conceptualised and moth-eaten goods and services tax (GST), or 'Gabbar Singh tax', has "unleashed a tsunami of tax terrorism".
Gandhi said the Indian economy was "staring at a disaster" because of the twin blows of demonetisation and GST. He said this was "purely a manmade disaster", "or rather in the PM's terminology 'an MMD' - a Modi Made Disaster."
Speaking at an event organised by the PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PHDCCI), the Congress Vice President sought to reach out to India's SME (small and medium enterprises) sector. He said the sector was the "backbone" of the Indian economy and can be the engine to create jobs, but currently "screaming in pain".
Over the past few months, including in his speeches during his US tour, Gandhi has frequently spoken of the potential of the SME sector in job creation for a country like India, how policies are framed for big corporate groups and the challenges SME and unorganised sectors have faced in recent months. He said the minister for the SME sector would be a fundamental pillar in any future Congress government.
In an extremely well received speech, Gandhi criticised the handling of the economy by the PM and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. He said while business had drowned, the FM has "the nerve to go on TV every other day and say things are just fine" and would become better after 2019.
"The way this regime is working -- or not working -- has led to a 'double tap' killing of the Indian economy. Commandos in a hostage situation fire what is called a 'double tap' - two quick shots fired in the chest to ensure that their devil's target is down, is dead," he said.
Gandhi said the government has fired the "double tap" of demonetisation and GST into the heart of the economy. "First notebandi, bang, and then GST, bang, crippled our economy," he said. Gandhi, who is expected to become the Congress president next month, said the government cannot provide jobs but is now riling up communities against each other or busy debating whether Taj Mahal was built by Indians.
Earlier welcoming the Congress Vice President, outgoing PHDCCI president Gopal Jiwarajka said that an industry chamber is apolitical and aligned not to any political party but to policies, the political weather of the country was changing. He said it was good to see that a strong opposition has emerged.
The Congress Vice President said a little over three years back the PM presented to the nation "the Indian vision". "Today, it is fair to say that vision lies shattered," he said. Gandhi said "arrogance" and a "condescending tone" have become the bedrock of the government. He said business thrives on trust and a safe predictable environment. "The truth is the trust in this government is dead. For some reason the PM and his government are absolutely convinced that every single person in the country is a thief," he said to applause from the gathering.
Gandhi said the government did not believe in its people and the people had "slowly withdrawn their trust" from the government. Gandhi said in a fortnight's time the country will celebrate the 'barsi', or death anniversary, of 'note ban'. In a jibe at the PM, Gandhi said this government has shown it has a "very big chest, but a very small heart".
Gandhi said Indian economy can be revived if the SME sector is supported. He said it is because of the SMEs that China generates 50,000 jobs every single day. In India, 450 jobs are created daily. Gandhi said the sector needed a "new deal", particularly stronger linkages with the banking system. He said the sector has 14 per cent share of India's economic output and 80 per cent share of the country's non-agricultural output but all SMEs combined get less banking credit than the 10 big corporate groups. The PM said the public sector bank recapitalisation is also aimed at big corporates.
He stressed the need for the sector to have a stronger voice in the corridors of power. He said 'stand-up India' was welcome, but not 'shut up India'. Gandhi said the Congress party will always support the sector. Gandhi criticized the "absolute concentration of power" in the Prime Minister's Office, where senior cabinet ministers like Sushma Swaraj also don't have a voice.
Gandhi said decentralisation of power and creating platforms to listen to the people was the answer.