Modi burnishes reforms record, defends GST in Gujarat: Top 10 developments

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday inaugurated the first phase of the Rs 615 cr ‘roll-on-roll-off’ ferry service between Ghogha in Saurashtra and Dahej in south Gujarat. Photo: PTI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said the Indian economy's fundamentals were strong and the economy was headed in the right direction. Modi also lashed out at Opposition party Congress for questioning the Election Commission (EC) for not announcing the poll schedule for Gujarat. The prime minister was on a visit to poll-bound Gujarat, for the third this month, when he made these remarks.

PM Modi also spoke about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) one again, seeking to assuage concerns among the trader community due to the new tax regime.

The prime minister had visited Gujarat on Monday last week when he addressed Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) workers at a rally in Gandhinagar. Prior to that, Modi had visited his hometown Vadnagar on October 8 and also inaugurated and laid foundation stones for various projects in Rajkot, Vadnagar, Gandhinagar, and Bharuch. He has been frequently visiting the state, which goes to the polls in December this year.

Commenting on the prime minister's frequent Gujarat visits ahead of the Assembly polls in the state, the Opposition has questioned the EC's decision of not announcing the poll dates.

Here are the top 10 things PM Modi said during his latest visit to the state:

1) Modi hit out at the Congress for questioning the EC for not announcing the poll schedule for Gujarat along with Himachal Pradesh. The Congress has no moral right to question the Constitutional body, Modi said addressing a gathering in Gujarat.

"Some of them (Opposition) are worried why Modi is coming to Gujarat after Diwali. They can't say anything to me, so they are targeting the Election Commission," the prime minister said and asked the gathering, "You tell me, should I not come to Vadodara?" To hit out at the Congress, Modi referred to the recent Rajya Sabha polls from Gujarat in which Congress leader Ahmed Patel won by defeating BJP's Balwantsinh Rajput. "In the recent election, votes were counted and TV channels were showing who is the victor, but they (Congress) did something after which a recount took place in which they won," Modi said.

"Those who won in the recount are now asking the Election Commission why Modi is going to Gujarat," he said, adding, "They do not have any moral right to ask this question to the Election Commission."

2) Modi tacitly warned people in his home state Gujarat about the possible pitfalls of picking a government of a party different from the one at the Centre.

Modi said that as chief minister he suffered at the hands of the Congress-led UPA government as it would sit over development proposals because of its "anti-Gujarat, anti-development attitude". Mimicking former prime minister Manmohan Singh in a low, soft tone, Modi said that every time he went to him with a request about laying sluice gates at the Narmada dam, he would say: "hua (Your work still not done)." 

The prime minister said progress had been achieved only when the government in the Centre was sympathetic to the state's interest and of the same party. "If Atalji's government was not at Centre, Gujarat would have never emerged from the devastating earthquake (of January 2001). The Centre stood strongly with the Keshubhai Patel government," he claimed. "Gujarat should not let go of a single opportunity to benefit from the government at the Centre which is sympathetic to Gujarat." 

3) Unfazed by the Opposition's attack over demonetisation and GST, Modi vowed to continue the process of taking "important decisions" regarding reforms as he asserted that the economy was on track after "hardcore" decisions. "After all reforms and hard decisions, the economy of the country is on track and is going in the right direction," Modi said while addressing a rally in Gujarat. "Many economists have agreed unanimously that the fundamentals of the economy are strong," he added.

4) He was apparently answering the critics in the Opposition and Yashwant Sinha of his own party, BJP, who have been saying that the economy is in a bad state. "If we have a look at the figures which have come recently, the production of coal, electricity, natural gas and other items has increased tremendously. Foreign investors are making record investments in the country. The foreign exchange reserves of the country have reached 40,000 crore dollars from 30,000 crore dollars," Modi said. 

5) Modi also reached out to traders, saying their past records would not be checked by the income tax department if they join the formal economy by getting themselves registered under GST. "In the last few months, 2.7 million additional people have registered themselves for this indirect tax. Tax rules, system, tax officials and even politicians are forcing them to do it," he said.

"I know those who are joining have fear that their past records will be checked. I assure you no tax officials will be allowed to open past records of those who want to come in the mainstream," the PM declared. "GST has eliminated check posts on borders. Trucks do not have to wait for days and corruption at checkposts has stopped. Those who used to take contracts for ensuring passage of your trucks through checkposts are naturally angry with me," Modi said.

6) Listing out his government's priority programmes as providing electricity to every home by 2019 and a house to ever family by 2022, Modi criticised the Opposition for lack of vision. "To them, public welfare works are not the priority. They think it is their birthright to rule. They do not have capability to think or have vision," Modi said. He mimicked the late Rajiv Gandhi without naming him to claim that his own government would not procrastinate before launching development works. "Humey dekhna hain, hum dekhenge, humey sochna hain, hum sochenge... Nothing like this, we implement in decided time-frame," Modi said, trying to sound like the assassinated former prime minister. 

7) While launching his "dream project", the roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry service connecting Saurashtra with south Gujarat, Modi blamed the previous UPA government for delaying the venture by creating hurdles in the name of environment. "I had laid the foundation stone for the project in 2012, but for doing work in the ocean, you had to remain dependent on the central government then. There were such people in the central government that they had put a ban on development from Vapi to Mandvi in Kutch along coastal Gujarat," he said. "All over, industries were threatened to be closed down in the name of environment. I know how many challenges I had faced for the development of Gujarat," he said attacking the Congress-led UPA government. 

8) The prime minister also said that in the past, the state government had made "structural mistakes", because of which the ro-ro project was gathering dust for a long time. He said that after he took over as the chief minister, he changed the existing policies and the process to make the project possible. 

"We changed the polices of the previous governments. We decided that the government will construct terminals, and private agencies will run ferry service. The government also decided that it will bear the cost of dredging. We also thought that the government will also have a part of profit. It is because of this, the ferry service has been possible," Modi said. 

9) PM Modi said that his government has given a new mantra: "P for P", implying ports for prosperity. Modi, while addressing a gathering after travelling from Ghogha in the ro-ro ferry service which he inaugurated, said, "We need ultramodern ports for the development of the country." 

"We have given a new mantra 'P for P', which means ports for prosperity," Modi said. "Ports are the gateway to prosperity for the country. Understanding this, we have launched the Sagarmala project in which old ports are being upgraded," he said. 

10) Highlighting the importance of waterways, Modi said goods can be transported through waterways at a cost of 20 paise per tonne, while it will take Re 1 through railways and Rs 1.5 by road. 

"The earlier government had not given any importance to transportation by waterways. Before we (NDA government) came, there were six waterways. Now we have identified more than 100 waterways," the prime minister said. "We have 21,000 km of waterways which includes 7,500 km of coastal waterways and 14,000 km of inland waterways through rivers. India is naturally blessed with it. But our earlier government did nothing about it," he said.

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