Demonetisation, hastily implemented GST damaged economy: Rahul

San Francisco: Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi on Tuesday criticised Prime Minister Narendra Modi for demonetisation and the hastily implemented Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. Both he said caused “tremendous damage to the Indian economy”.

Gandhi, who is on a two-week visit to the US to interact with political leaders, global thinkers and overseas Indians, spoke on the political environment in the country, the Congress party, the effects of demonetisation among other issues.

“Government’s economic policy of demonetisation and the hastily implemented GST has caused tremendous pressure on the economy,” Gandhi said while addressing the students of the University of California in Berkeley on ‘India at 70: Reflections on the Path Forward’.

India’s first Prime Minister and Gandhi’s great grandfather Jawaharlal Nehru had once delivered a historic speech at the same university in 1949.

Gandhi also said that the government’s decision to scrap Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes has led to decline in economic growth. “It cost us two per cent loss in GDP (gross domestic product),” he said.

“Decisions like demonetisation which removed 86 per cent of cash from circulation were done unilaterally, without asking the Chief Economic Advisor or the Cabinet or even Parliament, it (demonetisation) caused tremendous damage,” he said.

Accusing Modi for opening the space for terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir, the Congress leader said: “When we started, terrorism was rampant in Kashmir. And when we finished by 2013, we basically broke the back of terror, I hugged (then) Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and told him it was one of the biggest achievements.”

He also referred to the role of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) which is in power with the BJP as its alliance partner in the state, and said, “PDP was instrumental in bringing youngsters in politics, but the day Modi made alliance with PDP, he destroyed them (PDP).”

“So he (Modi) massively opened up space for the terrorists in Kashmir, and you saw the increase in violence,” he added.

He said for nine years he has worked behind the scenes with Manmohan Singh, former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, former union Minister Jairam Ramesh and others on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

Slamming the Bharatiya Janata Party-led central government for the incidents of mob lynching and cow vigilantism that unleashed violence, Gandhi said, “I understand what violence does, violence against anybody is wrong.”

“Hatred, anger and violence can destroy us, the politics of polarisation is dangerous,” he said, adding that liberal journalists are being shot (referring to Kannada journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh’s murder), people are being lynched.

“These incidents are making millions feel that they have no future in their country,” Gandhi added.

He also said that the “idea of non-violence or ‘ahimsa’ is what has allowed this mass of people (India) to rise together and it is the only idea which can take humanity forward”.

“I lost my father, my grandmother to violence, if I don’t understand violence then who will?” he asked referring to the the assassination of his grandmother Indira Gandhi and his father Rajiv Gandhi.