Continuing his high decibel campaign in poll-bound Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday attacked Congress leader Rahul Gandhi for calling GST 'Gabbar Singh Tax' and said those who looted the country could only think of dacoits.
In a stinging rebuttal to Gandhi's repeated criticism of the goods and services tax, Modi said a recently emerged ‘economist’ was propagating a ‘grand stupid thought’ by suggesting that GST rate be capped at 18 per cent.
Making a fresh bid for power in his home state, where the Bharatiya Janata Party has ruled for over two decades, Modi also listed various development works by the government on water conservation, agriculture and development of the Saurashtra region.
Addressing a huge rally in Morbi town in the region, which goes to polls in the first phase on December 9, he accused the Congress of taking credit for minor schemes, like providing hand-pumps, while saying that the BJP rule brought in major works like the Narmada project.
Making a strong appeal to the people to vote for the BJP in this Patidar community stronghold, Modi said his party should not be voted out for 100 years.
"Today, some so called smart people, some new economists have emerged who are misleading people,” he declared in his speech in Gujarati.
"Those who have looted people throughout their life, they can only remember dacoits,” Modi said in a reply to Gandhi's 'Gabbar Singh Tax' jibe, recalling the iconic villain from the Bollywood blockbuster Sholay.
He said Gandhi was propagating a 'grand stupid thought' in the name of GST, telling people that they will slash all tax rates and make it 18 per cent.
This means 18 per cent tax on salt and 18 per cent tax on luxury cars costing Rs 5 crore, he noted.
"What kind of smartness is this... how has such an economist emerged here. You want to make goods used by the poor like clothes, footwear and food costlier and you want to make cigarettes and liquor cheaper,” he said, ripping into the ‘anti-poor’ Congress over its criticism of the tax reform.
The prime minister went on to say that making cigarettes cheaper means bringing cancer in every home and asked which rich businessmen the opposition leader sought to benefit by making liquor cheaper.
He also brought up Rahul Gandhi's grandmother, the late Indira Gandhi.
Recalling the Macchu dam flood tragedy of 1979 in Morbi,the prime minister said he had spent one month working in the town after the disaster as a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Jan Sangh worker.
"I remember Indira Gandhi had come here and Chitralekha (a local language magazine) had printed her photo with a handkerchief over her nose, trying to avoid the stench, while another photo on the same front page had RSS workers carrying dead bodies,” he said.
“Those who have helped us in times of difficulties should be remembered,” he added.
Modi then went on to list how his government had worked to bring waters from the Narmada to the parched regions of Saurashtra and Kutch.
"The Congress' development model was giving hand-pumps. For the BJP it is the SAUNI scheme (the Narmada water project for Saurashtra region), where we will fill dams of Saurashtra through huge pipelines.”
The culture of this parched land, Modi said, was to give respect to those who have tried to do something to provide water.
"The BJP has done many things and it should not be thrown out of power in the state for the next 100 years,” Modi said.
Modi had on Monday pushed the BJP's campaign in his home state into a high gear by addressing four back-to-back rallies.
Elections to the 182-member Gujarat assembly will be held in two phases on December 9 and 14. The votes will be counted on December 18.
'Those born with gold spoon mocking poor man's sweat'
Addressing another rally in Palitana in Bhavnagar district, Modi hit back at Rahul over his 'sweat on forehead' tweet targeting him, saying those born with a 'gold spoon' are now mocking the sweat of poor.
Modi was apparently responding to Gandhi's tweet in Hindi posted on Monday that, when loosely translated, would read: 'Wrinkle on the face, sweat on the forehead, Saheb (sir) appears to be scared. Don't know why his lips get sealed on the questions regarding Shah-zada (son of (Amit) Shah) and Rafale.'
Modi is often referred to as 'Saheb' by his supporters and subordinates.
"You will never understand the value of a poor person's sweat, because you were born with a gold spoon. Since you don't understand what kind of pain poor go through, you are mocking their sweat," Modi said.
"You always had a grudge against Gujarat. People know how you treated Sardar Patel and Morarji Desai. Now, Modi is your target. Due to this hatred, you are feeling uneasy about the sweat on a Gujarati's forehead. Those born in a royal family with a gold spoon, will never understand the true value of our sweat," the prime minister added.
He said on one side there are Gujaratis who are walking the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi, a fakir (an ascetic), and on the other, 'there are descendants of another Gandhi, who belong to a royal family. It is up to us whether to walk the path shown by the fakir or the path of those who were born with a gold spoon'.
"Though they have not seen poverty or the pain attached to it, they are now teaching us," he said without taking any names.
IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures while addressing an election campaign rally in Morbi on Wednesday. Photograph: PTI Photo