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Modi’s speech overtly taxing

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tax officials in a quandary, not even doing routine work. Officials worried that Govt may punish them instead of black money hoarders

Finance ministry officials and tax authorities are completely confused after Narendra Modi’s recent speech defending his economic policies. The reason for the confusion is this. Although Modi defended his policies, he also sounded conciliatory and reached out to traders and small businessmen with unexpected assurances.

One, he said there would be changes in GST to give them relief, which he has done. But they are more concerned about his other assurance, that no-one will be harassed by the tax authorities.

Tax officials are wondering whether this is a signal that the government wants to go slow on the thousands of notices that were sent out to traders and businessmen after demonetization.

Consequently, for the moment, the babus have thrown up their hands and are not even doing routine work. They are worried that in this conciliatory mood, the government may punish them instead of those with suspected black money if they pursue cases too aggressively.

BJP circles caught by surprise
RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s annual Dussehra speech has caught BJP circles by surprise. They did not expect the sarsangchalak to express disapproval of the government’s economic advisors from a public platform.

This is the first time Bhagwat has criticized the government openly. Although the criticism was mild and more cautionary than attacking, the fact that he went public is of concern in the BJP.

Close on the heels of Bhagwat’s advisory about the PM’s men comes an announcement by RSS-back trade union organizations to gherao Parliament with a demand that videshi-educated economists in the government be sacked.

The question being asked in BJP circles is this: what is Modi going to do about his advisors? Just last month, he made a slew of appointments. He named a new head for NITI Aayog, Rajiv Kumar. He gave chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanium an extension. And he appointed two persons from NITI Aayog in the newly constituted PM’s Economic Advisory Council. One was Bibek Debroy who is heading the Council and the other is Ratan Watal who is the member-secretary.

So far, Bhagwat has been silent about the people around Modi. If he had any reservations, they were expressed in private. BJP circles feel that the RSS chief’s decision to use a public platform like the Dussehra address to caution he government on the economy and its economic advisors suggests that all is not well between Modi and Bhagwat.

The Dussehra speech is the most important address delivered by the sarsangchalak as it rolls out the RSS view on important national issues and lays down a roadmap for the coming year.

Jayant has to do balancing act
Senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha’s son, Jayant, should be a worried man. As a minister in Modi’s government, he has had to virtually disown his father after Sinha senior lashed out at the handling of the economy. It can’t be easy doing a balancing act between family and political loyalties.

To top it all, the news from his Lok Sabha constituency of Hazaribagh in Jharkhand is causing anxiety. It seems Yashwant Sinha has become a hero of sorts there. He is being hailed by common people bearing the brunt of demonetization and GST confusion. Apparently, congratulatory messages are pouring in from BJP cadre and supporters.

Remember, Hazaribagh was Yashwant Sinha’s seat before he gave it up for Jayant in 2014. That year, Jayant sailed through riding the Modi wave. In 2019, it may not be that easy. As the father’s stock rises, the son’s dips. Also the BJP government in the state is proving quite unpopular. It’s all adding up to a discomfiting picture for Jayant at the moment.

Kejriwal’s olive branch to Congress AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal is believed to have extended an olive branch to the Congress. He has sent feelers asking
to join hands to defeat the BJP in all forthcoming elections leading up to 2019.

As part of this strategy, he has decided not to campaign in Gujarat, leaving the field clear for a one-to-one fight between the BJP and Congress.  nterestingly, he has gone further. He will put up AAP candidates in select constituencies where the Patels dominate. Patels have only voted for the Congress when Chimanbhai Patel was the party’s leader. Otherwise, they have been anti-Congress.

Kejriwal’s calculation is to harness the angry Patel vote so that it doesn’t go to the BJP by default. This will help the Congress win. Or it could help the AAP candidate win. Whoever wins, it should not be the BJP. That is Kejriwal’s motto.

AAP has also offered to stay out of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh. These are states the party was eyeing earlier.

But now as part of its defeat BJP strategy, it has left these two states to the Congress to fight the BJP.

It seems Congress leaders Manish Tewari is acting as a go-between for AAP. However, Congress Delhi chief Ajay Maken is opposed to any deal with Kejriwal.

Amit mad with BJP Kerala unit
It seems Amit Shah is hopping mad with the Kerala unit of the BJP. He is blaming them for making his Janraksha march in the state a flop.

Not only was the turnout poor, apparently, those who showed up along the route shouted pro-CPM slogans instead of pro-BJP slogans. BJP leaders in the state were also unable to stop the pasting of posters slamming the BJP and RSS. These posters were put up along the route of the march.

Shah’s temper tantrum and his decision to cut short his march has not gone down well in Kerala. Although he was summoned back to Delhi for an urgent meeting with the PM and Arun Jaitley, the aborted march is being seen in Kerala as an admission of defeat by the BJP chief.

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