Lal Dungri, South Gujarat: Congress President Rahul Gandhi on Thursday established a connect with the crowds here in Gujarat, scoffing at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's development claims in his home state and alleging that GST had killed the state's small and medium scale businessmen who were its true pillars.
"Sardar ney humko rasta dikhaya tha, Mahatma Gandhi ney rasta dikhaya tha, ab Gujarat ke log firse dikhayenge kaise logon ko ek karte hain, sahi vikas kya hain (Sardar showed us the way, Gandhi showed us the way, now people of Gujarat will once again show how to unite the country, what is real development)," he declared to loud applause.
As the crowds listened in rapt attention, Gandhi made an sentimental appeal: "Gujarat has given immense love and respect to me, I will never forget this. There is nothing bigger for me. I love to come here as many as times as possible. I love the people of Gujarat, I love the food here."
As the crowds cheered and whistled, he said: "Whenever Gujarat calls me, I will be there. Wherever I am, I promise, whenever you call me I will come."
Taunting Modi's 'Mann Ki Baat' radio programme, the Congress chief added, addressing the crowd: "You are our masters. The farmers, the tribals, the downtrodden are our masters. Not Anil Ambani, not Nirav Modi, not Vijay Mallya."
There was loud applause when he referred to Jay Shah, son of BJP President Amit Shah.
"He converted Rs 700 crore black money into white through a cooperative bank (Ahmedabad District Cooperative Bank of which Amit Shah is a director). But Narendra Modi will not speak about this," he asserted.
Just as Gandhi exhorted the crowds to shout after him "chowkidar chor hai" he said: "Delhi mein kehte hain chor hai, Gujarati mein bolte hain Chor Chhey." The people broke into huge laughter and some shouted back "mahachor chhey" and "paako chor chhey".
Gandhi said "Modi's Gabbar Singh Tax (Goods and Services Tax)" had sounded the death knell of the small and medium scale businessmen who were the true pillars of Gujarat's economic prowess. And GST came as an insult to injury to the common men after demonetization, he added.
"The UPA government in 2019 will bring real GST, where it will be a truly simple tax and truly one tax, not the present version."
Gandhi said the Congress brought National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, Food Security Act and a progressive and people-oriented land acquisition law. "And now we are coming with a concept of guaranteed income.
"Under this, money will be directly transferred in your bank account... We have been planning for this for over three to four months."
Referring to the Bharatmala project, Gandhi said it was "bharat-maara not Bharatmala" through which lands of farmers and poor were being snatched.
He challenged the BJP government to implement the Land Acquisition Act which the UPA government had brought in 2013. "We implemented it in Chhattisgarh immediately after our party came to power. Our government got the Tatas to return thousands of acres of unused land according to the law," Gandhi added.