GST rollback turns it into Gujarat Service Tax but is it enough to deliver Gujarat to Modi?

File photo of Narendra Modi

Modi’s latest climbdown on the much-touted ‘one nation one tax’ is a desperate move to mollify the Gujarati mercantile class before the elections

Narendra Modi is no longer his old self. The usually brash, brazen and careless Modi is now not just listening to criticism but is even bending to change his own goals. The shift in GST rules last night is a clear sign of a scared Modi who has begun to sense defeat. He is no longer as confident about gaining Gujarat as he used to be. After all, Gujarat is going to polls at the end of the year and winning it is the top priority for Modi.

Frankly, a revolt of sorts is brewing against Modi in Gujarat, his own home turf. It is not just Patidar Patels led by young Hardik who are up in arms against the BJP. The entire social compact that once Modi weaved as the “Hindu Hriday Samrat” during 12 years as the Gujarat helmsman lies shattered.

Modi’s Hindu vote bank is scattered into various caste groups. Patels are behaving more as Patels rather than as the monolith Hindus. Dalits are reacting to upper caste oppression as Dalits. Even OBCs are talking about their caste interests and looking up to Alpesh Kumar as their leader.

Hardik Patel has already appealed his supporters to join Rahul Gandhi’s rallies. Alpesh Kumar is said to be toeing the idea of backing the Congress. The minorities are already anti-Modi. Modi’s one-time solid Hindu vote bank is clearly split into castes as the “Muslim enemy” is so marginalised now in Gujarat that they cannot be marketed as a threat any longer to the majority Hindu community.

Once the Muslim fear is dissipated, the Hindus do not need an ang rakhshak (saviour) like Modi. It naturally dents the Modi appeal within his core Hindu constituency. It leaves Modi with only the Gujarati mercantile class which is quite substantial in numbers and effective as a class. Gujarati mercantile class is largely traders and exporters primarily in the diamond and textile industry. Even this section had taken to streets in a big way last month against GST.

Modi’s latest climbdown on the much-touted ‘one nation one tax’ is a desparate move to mollify the Gujarati mercantile class before the elections. The new GST relief include items like man-made filament, synthetic yarn and fibre and many more items that gives concessions to Gujarat textile industry and merchants. Conssesions granted to exporters give relief to diamond industry. Besides, the overall direction of the new GST regime is to appease the traditional baniya lobby which has been long-time BJP supporters.

The new GST regime with Gujarat-oriented relief is a clear indication that Gujrat is no longer a cake walk for Modi. There are already problems within the BJP for the Hindutva hero. Senior BJP leaders like Yashwant Sinha, Arun Shourie and Ram Jethmalani are at Modi’s throat. Ageing LK Advani and MM Joshi are waiting in the wings to pounce on the man who has made them redundant within the saffron party. The Opposition, too, is looking to put its house in order to take on a weakened Modi.

If Gujarat slips, Modi’s grip over national politics slips as well. Hence, the rush to amend GST. Well, wait and watch whether mere tinkering it can deliver Gujarat to Modi for the fourth time.

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