Expressing solidarity with jewellers, who are on a strike to protest against the decision to impose excise duty, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre wanted to finish small businesses for the benefit of a handful of corporate houses.
Addressing a gathering of jewellers at Zaveri Bazaaar, the hub of jewellery units in south Mumbai, Gandhi said, “The Centre has decided to crush the traders for the benefit of about 15 industrialists. We are not against Make In India and promotion of industries, but the government cannot help big industrialists by snatching away the business of smaller traders. This one-way development will not benefit anyone.”
For the past several years, the jewellers have been supporting the BJP. By extending support to their protests against the Centre’s decision, Gandhi and his party are trying to take them away from the rival BJP. Gandhi equated the jewellers’ protests with that of farmers.
“Your fight is similar to the farmers’ fight against the land acquisition bill last year. The traders on strike have no voice or influence, just like the farmers. Our party forced the Modi government to quash the bill benefitting corporate houses. This time, too, we will force the government to roll back the excise tax imposed on jewellers,” he said, assuring them the Congress will raise the issue in Parliament.
The jewellers’ associations are on strike since March 2 to protest against the 1% excise duty imposed on them in the Central budget. Although a few associations claimed to have withdrawn their strike, the traders who attended the rally claimed their agitation was on. The leaders representing the associations alleged they were being threatened with income tax raids by some ministers in the Modi government.
Gandhi was accompanied by state Congress president Ashok Chavan, Mumbai Congress chief Sanjay Nirupam and former union minister Milind Deora who represented the south Mumbai constituency earlier.
Nirupam said Congress MPs stood against their party to support traders when excise duty was imposed on them in 2012.