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Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Monday mounted a scathing attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, terming the Goods and Services Tax (GST) 'Gabbar Singh Tax' that has hit hard the country already nursing the wounds of demonetisation.
"Ye jo inka GST hai, ye aam aadmi pe bojh hai... Ye GST nahi, ye Gabbar Singh Tax hai," Gandhi asserted at a massive rally in Gujarat's capital Gandhinagar where OBC leader Alpesh Thakore joined the Congress.
The gathering was a veritable show of strength of the Thakore community, which forms a major chunk of the Other Backward Classes. Thakore has a state-wide hold over the community. His joining the Congress would be a morale booster for the party looking for a victory in Gujarat after 22 long years.
Gandhi said Modi imposed demonetisation last year on a personal whim, pushing lakhs of people into distress. And if this was not enough, he introduced the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in a tearing hurry.
"The GST was brought by the Congress, but there was a ceiling of 18 per cent and did not have five slabs like the present. We requested the government to go slow, but they just would not listen."
He called the Modi government anti-poor and said it was working against the interests of the common people.
Welcoming the trinity of Alpesh Thakore, Hardik Patel and Jignesh Mevani, who are leading agitations in Gujarat, Gandhi began his speech with 'Jay Mataji, Jay Sardar and Jay Bhim'. The three terms are popularly used as community greetings of the Kshatriyas, Patels and Dalits respectively.
He asked: "Why is it that almost all the communities in Gujarat are agitating, for the first time? It is because, since 22 years of BJP rule, the government has not done anything for them, but worked only for a handful of industrialists?
"The people are tormented by Narendra Modi and they will no longer remain silent. They will speak out."
Referring to allegations by Patidar leader Narendra Patel that a bribe of Rs 1 crore was offered to him to join the BJP, Gandhi said that "priceless voices" of Gujarat can neither be stifled nor bought.
"Even Hardik, Jignesh Mewani (Dalit leader), cannot remain silent. They too have a voice. And this is no ordinary voice. It cannot be suppressed or bought.
"Whether they give Rs 1 crore, Rs 100 crore, Rs 1,000 crore or India's total budget or the wealth of the world, the voice of Gujarat cannot be bought or suppressed."
Gandhi also asked Modi to break his silence on BJP President Amit Shah's son Jay, whose business fortunes allegedly sky-rocketed after the NDA came to power.
Speaking on demonetization, he said: "What happened on November 8? Modiji came on television and said I don't like Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes. So I have decided to spike them from that midnight. And by doing that he attacked the whole country by one stroke.
"For the first two or three days days he too did not understand what has happened. And in a concert in Mumbai he announced 'I have done this'.
"But after five-six days he realised he made a mistake. Then again he appeared on television and said if I don't end the menace of black money by December 30, then hang me."
Gandhi asked farmers in the crowd if they buy seeds and fertilizers from their mobile phones and with cheques. The crowd replied with a booming 'No'.
"He destroyed the entire economy. He did not stop there but went ahead with the GST.
"GST was our thinking. We brought it, it was a thought of single tax of 18 per cent across the nation with less forms to be filled."
He also took a dig at Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for rejecting Congress recommendation of cutting tax slabs.
Gandhi also attacked Modi's "Make In India" slogan, saying Chinese goods had swept India.
"Should employment go to China or come to India? Most products you use have the label Made in China. Whether it is a shirt, cameras or anything else. When you click selfies or press a button for a picture, a Chinese youth gets employment.
"In Gujarat alone there are 30 lakh unemployed youth. Every day 30,000 people across the country enter the job market. But only 450 people get jobs."
The Congress Vice President alleged that the BJP government was working for a handful of corporates. "They waived huge debts worth Rs 130,000 crore of select industries but won't do with farmers.
"The government gave a cheap loan of Rs 35,000 crore to Tata Nano which could have been otherwise adequate to waive debts of Gujarat farmers. And what did Gujarat get? How many Nano cars you see on the roads?" he asked.