A bad idea and a bad good idea

Shashi Tharoor at Bengal Chamber of Commerce. (Bishwarup Dutta)

Dalhousie: Demonetisation: a bad idea implemented badly. GST: a good idea implemented badly.

Congress leader and author Shashi Tharoor on Sunday swatted the Narendra Modi government's twin "achievements" in his inimitable style while delivering a talk on New India: A Narrative, organised by the Bengal Chamber of Commerce in association with The Telegraph.

The MP from Thiruvananthapuram called demonetisation a "stupid" economic decision. "Demonetisation is all pain and no gain," said Tharoor, referring to the economic cost of the measure that the Prime Minister had announced on November 8, 2016.

Tharoor was no less scathing in his assessment of how the new goods and services tax regime has panned out. "The GST is not a one-nation-one-tax but a one-nation-three-tax and six tax rates," he said.

GST had been conceived as a tax that would subsume various taxes on production and distribution levied by the Centre and the states. The plan was to replace the plethora of rates and move towards a single rate across all states, advertised as "one-nation-one-tax".

Shifting from economic issues, Tharoor focused on what he described as an upheaval in Indian society since the change of guard in Delhi. He said he didn't have a problem when Modi spoke about freeing India from the shackles of "casteism and communal tension". He then pointed to the "divergence between speech and practice", listing instances of people being lynched for their religion, for transporting cattle with valid permits and Dalits facing persecution for doing their job.

"I too want a new India but not this...Though the Prime Minister speaks of putting Indians first, it seems, unfortunately, that his followers and his party puts some Indians first," Tharoor said.

The former diplomat gave an example of his vision of India, old or new. "If a Muslim friend of mine disagrees to say 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' and says that 'my interpretation of my religion doesn't permit me to transform the nation as a goddess and worship her, therefore I will say Jai Hind or Jai Bharat', then he should be free to do so."

When someone in the audience asked him why politicians make the right noises while in the Opposition and change when they come to power, Tharoor invited the person to join politics. He recalled that he used to have the same view as a middle-class man "complaining about politicians".

"If all of you sit and enjoy the luxury of complaining, how will the country progress?" Tharoor said.


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