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Diversity tied to economy: Rahul Gandhi

The Congress leader said the economic slide began much before the pandemic struck
Rahul interacts with representatives of  MSMEs in Coimbatore  on Saturday.

Sanjay K. Jha   |   New Delhi   |   Published 24.01.21, 03:10 AM

Rahul Gandhi on Saturday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s poor understanding of the importance of diversity in India, arguing that economic growth was not possible without social harmony.

In a conversation with representatives from the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector in Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, the Congress leader said the economic slide began much before the pandemic struck, citing as reasons the demonetisation and the faulty GST rollout apart from the atmosphere of social disharmony which is not conducive for business. “You cannot have disharmony and economic growth together,” he said.

Responding to a question about the “role of diversity”, Rahul said: “What will happen if somebody says you can’t speak Tamil? What will happen if somebody goes to Manipur and says you cannot follow your customs? Economic activities will cease. The foundation of economic growth in India is diversity. Without diversity, you won’t have economy. You won’t have India either. India itself is an idea of diversity.”

The Congress MP explained: “The notion that the Prime Minister has that he can reduce diversity and grow faster is ignorance. It is lack of understanding. Also, lack of respect. When I come to Tamil Nadu, I view your language, your culture, your tradition as an asset. The current dispensation views this as a liability. They believe power should be centralised, that one man and one organisation should control everything.”

Insisting that social harmony is an imperative for business, Rahul said: “You can see the Prime Minister came with huge announcements. What happened? What has happened to the economy, what has happened to the level of violence in the society, what has happened to creation of jobs? Harmony is the central thing. The current government has created a huge amount of disharmony.”

Rahul was asked about the frequent protests in the country. He replied: “Protests are happening because there is an attempt to impose one idea, one ideology, to force this country to do what it doesn’t want to do. There is an attempt to capture institutions… we are heading in a dictatorial direction.

“Instead of conversations about how to solve problems, the government thinks it can impose its views. They will soon find out this is not possible. Farmers are not listening. Tamil Nadu has questions, the Northeast has questions…. It is about style of governance. You have to talk to people with respect, kindness, love and affection.”

Claiming that the GST was not a case of faulty implementation alone as it was designed to harm small businesses, Rahul said: “The government’s entire focus is on the largest players while the need of the hour is to do hand-holding of MSMEs, which is the future. We can’t compete with China without empowering the MSMEs. You talk of ‘Make in India, five big industrialists are there. Talk of telecom, defence… and the same five fellows. Now agriculture, the same people. Banks are working for 10-15 big industrialists,” Rahul said.

Participants bitterly complained about the GST and the economic slide, lamenting that over 30 per cent of micro industrial units had died during the lockdown, affecting over 20 crore people.

Later in the evening, interacting with industrial workers in Tirupur, Rahul alleged that the demonetisation and the faulty GST rollout were not mistakes but done on purpose to break the backbone of India’s workers and small businesses. This was a systemic and organised assault on workers, Rahul said, adding that even the inadequate response to Covid-19 was on purpose and now farmers were facing a similar fate.

“Modi is an arrogant person. He does not understand the power of poor people. Our job is to make him understand the power of the poor. I can sense you don’t believe the nonsense that the Prime Minister speaks,” Rahul said.

On a question about joblessness, he said: “This is because the economy is stuck, like the traffic that doesn’t move in a jam. This has happened because Modi gave thousands of crores to 10-15 largest businessmen and waived those loans instead of taking the money back.”

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