Gandhi vows to re­form sales tax, seek in­vest­ment as polls near

‘We will take some ra­tio­nal eco­nomic de­ci­sions’

Kuwait Times - - International -

NEW DELHI: In­dia’s main op­po­si­tion Con­gress party will sim­plify the goods and ser­vices tax (GST) and take “ra­tio­nal eco­nomic de­ci­sions” to at­tract for­eign in­vest­ment if voted back to power in a gen­eral elec­tion due by May, its leader Rahul Gandhi said on Satur­day. Launched in 2017, the GST was ini­tially hailed as Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s big­gest eco­nomic re­form as it re­placed more than a dozen fed­eral and state levies and uni­fied Asia’s third largest econ­omy.

But its chaotic im­ple­men­ta­tion and com­plex­i­ties months after a shock ban by Modi on high value bank cur­rency aimed at un­earthing un­taxed wealth — badly hurt small busi­nesses and led to mil­lions of job losses in the cash-driven econ­omy, pre­sent­ing the big­gest chal­lenge to Modi’s re-elec­tion chances.

Gandhi, scion of In­dia’s Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, said dur­ing a visit to Dubai that for­eign in­vest­ment was at a multi-year low in In­dia due to the “ill-ad­vised and badly thought out eco­nomic moves” such as the cur­rency ban and a “poorly de­signed GST”.

“We will take some ra­tio­nal eco­nomic de­ci­sions,” he told a press con­fer­ence, which was broad­cast live on Twit­ter. “We will re­struc­ture the GST and we will em­brace in­vest­ments from the Mid­dle East and other parts of the world. We are the party of (In­dia’s eco­nomic) lib­er­al­i­sa­tion, we are the party that gave the fastest eco­nomic growth in the first decade of the cen­tury, and will do that again.”

Fight over au­ton­omy

He said his main pri­or­ity would be to cre­ate jobs, sim­plify the GST, re­build con­fi­dence in in­sti­tu­tions such as the Re­serve Bank of In­dia — whose gover­nor re­signed re­cently after a fight over au­ton­omy with the gov­ern­ment, and the Supreme Court. Four Supreme Court judges held a rare press con­fer­ence early last year say­ing that “un­less this in­sti­tu­tion is pre­served and it main­tains its equa­nim­ity, democ­racy will not sur­vive in this coun­try”.

Modi told a BJP con­ven­tion in New Delhi on Satur­day that for Con­gress “ev­ery in­sti­tu­tion was wrong and only they were right”. The Con­gress press con­fer­ence was or­gan­ised by the In­dian Over­seas Con­gress, which is present in about 35 coun­tries, as Gandhi tries to reach out to rich In­di­ans liv­ing abroad for funds and so­cial me­dia sup­port for the party that has dom­i­nated the coun­try’s pol­i­tics for decades be­fore be­ing nearly dec­i­mated in the last gen­eral elec­tion in 2014 by Modi.

But back home, Gandhi re­ceived a jolt when bit­ter ri­vals Bahu­jan Sa­maj Party (BSP) and the Sa­ma­jwadi Party (SP) an­nounced an elec­tion tie-up with­out Con­gress in Ut­tar Pradesh state, which sends the high­est num­ber of law­mak­ers to the lower house of par­lia­ment. “The BSP and SP have made a po­lit­i­cal de­ci­sion,” Gandhi said. “It’s on us on how to strengthen the Con­gress party in Ut­tar Pradesh and we will fight with our full ca­pac­ity. Whether we do or their al­liance does, the BJP is not win­ning there.”

Modi said at the Delhi con­ven­tion that the op­po­si­tion was work­ing on a “des­per­ate al­liance”, while the BJP would give a “strong gov­ern­ment”. The Hindu na­tion­al­ist BJP lost power in three key states re­cently, forc­ing the gov­ern­ment to an­nounce a flurry of mea­sures to woo small busi­nesses and the less well-off since then. — Reuters

JAIPUR: An In­dian farmer takes a photo on a smart­phone dur­ing a rally for the farm­ing com­mu­nity held by Con­gress Party leader Rahul Gandhi. — AFP

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