For Gandhi of Raghu Precision Engineering, demonetisation meant toting up losses for four months or so because the orders for the auto parts he makes dried up. “There was no cash. We cut costs. We had to lay off 10 per cent of the staff against our wishes,” he recalled. While Gandhi too welcomed GST, he wasn’t as effusive about it as Mangla. “The orders fell by about 30 per cent because the market knew GST was coming. Our buyers wanted to clear out the stocks they held and not add to them. Even now, my main issue is the cumbersome process involved in filing GST returns. I had two options. Purchase the software or engage chartered accountants. I chose the latter,” he said.
How will the conversion from the old to the new affect political preferences? One of those spoken to was candid, off record. “No question, we will vote the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party). We have no confidence in the Congress’s leadership because it is confused about economic fundamentals,” he said.
In Indore’s commercial hubs, Rajwada and Sarafa Bazar, the mood swung from optimism to despondency. Optimism about GST and demonetisation ushering in fiscal integrity and hope that the taxes in the kitty of the states and the Centre will be “distributed uniformly” among all classes and not funnelled into bankrolling populism.
Pradeep Kumar, the owner of a garment shop, said, “Both the policies are the perfect antidote to checking ‘do number ka dhanda’ (illegal trade). We want everything from the government, roads, subsidised power and water, education, health but when the government wants something in return from us, why the noise? We want to steal but this can’t go on forever.”
At Milan Jewels, owned by Shyam Soni, there’s not one customer at peak buying hour. Yet he’s not pessimistic. “Problems are inevitable with changes. I know my CA is taking undue advantage of my ignorance about GST. I have to file monthly returns instead of every three months. Yet, I am looking towards the future, my grandsons and great grandsons. The new generation hates the practices we adopted for decades. I believe the BJP and Narendra Modi rightly felt their pulse,” he said.
A few outlets away, hopelessness loomed large over Subhash Soni’s face. He wound up the family trade of making ornaments, will dispose whatever’s left, board up and return to Agra, his home town. “There were hardly any orders this Diwali. That’s when the harsh reality of GST and note ‘bandi’ hit me. I am a ‘pukka’ BJP-wallah. But this time God help the BJP. We are sceptical about the Congress so the options are using NOTA or staying at home,” said Soni.