Congress leader Rahul Gandhi on Sunday said the Centre’s Goods and Services Tax was a major attack on India’s unorganised economy. He urged everyone to stand against the tax system, which he calls the “Gabbar Singh Tax”.

“This GST is an absolute failure,” Gandhi said in the latest video of his series on the economy. “Not only is it unsuccessful, it is an attack on the poor and on small and medium businesses. GST is not a tax system, it is an attack on India’s poor. It is an attack on small shopkeepers, small and medium businesses, farmers and labourers. We have to recognise this attack and stand against it together.”

In a tweet along with the video, Gandhi blamed the GST for the “historic decline” in India’s Gross Domestic Product growth. Data released by the Centre on August 31 showed that the Indian economy contracted by 23.9% in the second quarter of April-June, registering the most devastating fall in decades, as the lockdown imposed to contain the coronavirus wiped out consumption and investment. The numbers reflect the onset of the deepest recession in India since 1996, when the country first began publishing its quarterly GDP figures.

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“This [GST] wasted a lot like - Millions of small businesses,” Gandhi tweeted. “The future of millions of jobs and youth. The economic situation of states. GST means economic apocalypse.”

Gandhi claimed that the GST that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance had chalked out was meant to simplify taxation. “NDA’s GST is completely different,” he added. “Four different tax slabs, up to 28%, complicated and difficult to understand.”

He alleged that the four different tax rates were meant to help those who have the means. “Who has the means?” he asked in a rhetorical question. “India’s biggest 15-20 industrialists. So, whatever tax law they want to change can easily be done in this GST regime.”

This is the third of the four-part video series titled “Arthvyavastha (economics) Ki Baat, Rahul Gandhi ke saath”. In the first edition of the series, Gandhi had alleged that the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government implemented demonetisation, the Goods and Services Tax, and the coronavirus lockdown with an aim of destroying India’s informal sector. He claimed that there was a huge sum of money in the informal sector that the ruling government wanted to take away for itself. In the second edition, the Congress leader said the slump in the GDP and the resulting plight of the poor was directly linked to demonetisation. “Modi’s ‘cash-free’ India is actually a ‘worker-farmer-small businessman’ free India,” he had said.

Gandhi’s video series came at a time when several states, most ruled by non-NDA parties, and the Centre have been at loggerheads over GST compensation. The Centre has proposed two options for borrowings to meet the shortfall of Rs 2.35 lakh crore in goods and service tax compensation for the financial year of 2020-’21 to states.

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