Prantij (Gujarat): Seeking to take credit for the Center's decision to reduce the GST rates on a number of items, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Saturday said he would not rest till the five-slab "Gabbar Singh Tax" was converted into the "Goods and Services Tax" with an 18 per cent cap.
The Gandhi scion, who launched his poll campaign tour of north Gujarat after offering prayers at the Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar, again raked up the issue of a company of Jay Shah, the son of BJP president Amit Shah.
"We pressured (the Center), the people of Gujarat, small shopkeepers put pressure and I am happy to say that (union finance minister) Arun Jaitleyji has shifted many items to the 18 per cent slab from the 28 per cent tax bracket under the GST," he told a public meeting in this north Gujarat town.
"With five slabs, it is the Gabbar Singh Tax, but with one tax, it is the GST. Neither Gujarat nor India needs the Gabbar Singh Tax. The Congress had clearly told the BJP that there should be one tax with an 18 per cent cap and a simple tax (at that)," Gandhi added.
The 47-year-old Amethi MP said the "Gabbar Singh Tax" had caused damage to the small and medium scale businesses in Gujarat and elsewhere in the country.
"This Gabbar Singh Tax is looting the small people of this country. This Gabbar Singh Tax is only aimed at breaking the back of the small and medium scale industries of Gujarat and (the rest of) the country.
"This GST has damaged Gujarat and India. Good that they (Center) brought some changes in it yesterday. But, we will not stop at this. We will stop only when Gujarat and India get the GST and not the Gabbar Singh Tax," he added.
The Congress leader said the GST, a landmark tax reform which subsumed a host of central and state levies, needed structural changes.
"The GST cap should be at 18 per cent. If they (Center) do not do it, we will put pressure on them, and if they still do not do it, we will do it soon after forming the government. The GST requires structural changes," he added.
On Friday, the tax rates on over 200 items, ranging from chewing gum to chocolates to beauty products, wigs and wristwatches, were cut by the GST Council to provide relief to consumers and businesses in the backdrop of an economic slowdown.
Gandhi said prime minister Narendra Modi was silent about the company of Jay Shah, the turnover of which, as per a media report, rose from Rs 50,000 to Rs 80 crore in a few months after the BJP came to power at the Center.
"Modiji used to say he would be a chowkidar (watchman), but now people are asking whether he is a chowkidar or a bhagidar (collaborator)," he said.
A report in a news portal had alleged wrongdoings in the company owned by Jay Shah, a charge vehemently rejected by the latter and his father. Jay Shah has also filed a criminal defamation case against the news portal.
Gandhi claimed that the Congress government in Himachal Pradesh, where polling took place on November 9, had done a better work than the BJP regime in Gujarat, which goes to the polls next month.
"The Congress government in Himachal Pradesh opened four (new) medical colleges, but in Gujarat, no (new) medical college has come up. The Himachal government did not close down a single school, but the Gujarat government shut down 13,000 government schools. Himachal gave 14 lakh houses to the poor (under a scheme), but in Gujarat, the number of houses given by the government was half of that. Gujarat also lags behind Himachal in education and generating jobs," he said.
Meanwhile, BJP workers showed black flags to the Congress vice-president in Himmatnagar town of Sabarkantha district in north Gujarat.
The 182-member Gujarat Assembly will go to the polls in two phases -- on December 9 and 14.