Cong may focus on MSMEs before TN, Bengal polls
With assembly elections coming up in West Bengal and Tamil Nadu, the Congress’s campaign is likely to increasingly focusing on issues related to the micro, small and medium enterprises sector, which forms the backbone of India’s manufacturing industries, according to Congress leaders.
In January and February, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s public engagements — both virtual and in the field —have been dominated by concerns for the MSME sector. He tweeted about MSMEs at least four times during this period, spoke about problems plaguing the sector on at least three occasions, interacted with people from the sector, and wrote letters to Union ministers over issues of the sector that contributed 30.3% of India’s GDP in 2018-19.
Congress strategists argue that Gandhi’s pitch for faceless industrial units of MSME auger well with the party’s criticism of what it calls as “Hum Do, Hamare Ek” policies of the government. “We stand for millions of small industries, while the government seems to care about only the big industrialists,” a senior Congress strategist said on condition of anonymity. Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman had criticised the remark made by Gandhi in Parliament, saying he was becoming “doomsday man” for India.
The party sees the MSME sector as a key plank in at least two poll-bound states: Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. Tamil Nadu accounts for 15% of India’s MSME units with an investment of ₹32,000 crore. About one in five industries in the southern state are MSME. In West Bengal, the sector employs nearly 11 million people, according to official data.
Gandhi has already visited Tiruppur, the textile hub of India and exclusively interacted with the workers. Mohan Kumaramangalam, working president of the Tamil Nadu unit of Congress, said: “Demonetisation and GST badly hit the sector. Our own estimates say that a large number of them are on the verge of shutting down or have already closed their units.”
So, when Mohan asked Gandhi to take up the issue of steep increase of the price of yarn, Gandhi promptly wrote to textile minister Smriti Irani, appealing for “all possible support to our brothers and sisters in the apparel sector to help them compete effectively in the global markets”.
Congress officials said MSME is set to be a key agenda in their poll campaign in this round of elections. “We may announce sops for the sector if we come to power and in our campaign, we will definitely talk about how the BJP government has not given any help to the MSMEs,” said a second senior leader involved in the poll strategies.
A government report showed last year that 55% of MSMEs continued to face liquidity crunch at least till August 1, 2020 and only 26% of the MSMEs were utilising more than 50% of their production capacity due to reasons including lack of fresh orders and logistics issues.
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