The trader community has traditionally voted for the BJP but this time in Rajasthan there is palpable anger over Goods and Services Tax (GST) and demonetisation.
Marble traders at Asia’s largest marble mandi in Kishangarh said that their market used to sell products to the tune of Rs 4,200 crores per year till a few years back and this has now come down to Rs 3,400 crores. “GST has impacted demand. Till about three years back we used to dispatch 300 trucks daily and now the number has come down to 250 per day. The industry now works on a single shift. It has generated unemployment as well,” said Sampat Rai Sharma, CEO of the marble association.
He also lamented that the Vasundhara Raje government has not done anything to encourage people to invest. Traders said they got a rude shock when the government slapped a 28 percent GST rate on marble. There was some relief when the GST rate was reduced to 18 percent but traders said it is still quite high considering the pre GST rate was 5 percent. A high tax rate immediately impacts the cost of marble and its demand.
In Jaipur’s Johri Bazaar traders claim that demonetisation and introduction of GST in quick succession dealt a huge blow. Jewellery traders said they are yet to recover from the shock. “More than GST it is demonetisation which affected us. It is an issue in this election. Traders have not seen a slowdown of this kind in their lives,” said Kailash Chand Mittal, head of a jewellers association.
He added that Vasundhra Raje has not done anything for small traders and all schemes of the centre and the state have been given to big businessmen only. Suresh Agarwal, a jeweller in the area, said, “Sales are down everywhere by 40-45 percent. We consider GST to be one of the main reasons for slowing down growth in the country.”
Veteran Rajasthan businessman and honorary secretary general of Rajasthan Chambers of Commerce KL Jain dismissed reports of traders being angry with the BJP. Speaking to CNBC-TV18, Jain lauded Raje for her development work and said, “Vasundhra Raje has always been accessible to traders and always greets them with a smile. She has introduced a lot of schemes to benefit Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs)”.
It remains to be seen whether the traders will back Raje or oust her. But one thing for sure that the traders have not forgotten GST and demonetisation and they are unhappy with what was a low key Diwali.