NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday accused the Congress of working against the interests of small and medium traders and said the opposition party is trying to create a perception that all businessmen and traders are thieves.
Modi’s comment comes against the backdrop of Congress president Rahul Gandhi leading a campaign against the Prime Minister and alleging that he has tried to benefit a handful of businessmen in the Rafale fighter aircraft deal.
“During the rule of the Congress a perception was deliberately created that all problems of the people were because of traders. The Congress tried to protect hoarders by blaming traders for price rise and corruption," Modi said at a public meeting with traders in Delhi.
“The Congress calls all businessmen thieves. It forgets that even Mahatma Gandhi used to proudly call himself a bania," Modi said at the Talkatora stadium.
The dream of New India cannot be realized without the help of traders who are the biggest stakeholders in the development process of the country, he said. “The trading community employs 30-40 crore people. Traders are the biggest stakeholders. We cannot complete the dream of building New India without traders," he added.
The public event of the Prime Minister was organized by the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), whose secretary general Praveen Khandelwal is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The organization held a similar function in April 2014 and invited Modi for the event when he was the chief minister of Gujarat and the prime ministerial candidate of the BJP.
Modi told the traders that he did not want the community to live in fear.
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had tried to ease the lives and businesses of traders in the five years of its tenure, he said.
“I have tried to ease the life and business of traders. I want traders to work without fear. As honesty increases and transparency rises, it will lead to development of the country. The trading community has always worked for the people and has fulfilled the demands of people," Modi said.
Governments in the past was did not show any respect to the trading community, Modi said. He also defended the implementation of the goods and services tax (GST), saying the move had brought transparency in businesses. GST was a major election issue in the recently concluded assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh where the BJP lost power to arch- rival Congress.
“Old governments did not show any respect to traders. They only blamed traders to protect the corrupt. GST brought transparency in business. The suggestions of traders are important because the community is the backbone of the economy," said Modi.
The NDA was working to ensure that India is among the top 50 countries in the ease of doing business index, Modi said. The Prime Minister said that if the NDA returns to power in May after the 2019 general elections, the government would create the Rashtriya Vyapari Kalyan Board, which will act as a link between traders and the Union government.
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