NEW DELHI: The plight of small traders in Gujarat, who need to get around 16 licences to start a shop, is one of the issues the Congress plans to highlight in its manifesto for the Assembly polls to counter the ruling BJP’s development claims.
According to sources, the hurdles faced in starting a small venture ranked among the top in about 5,000 grievances and suggestions Congress strategists received during telecom entrepreneur Sam Pitroda’s interactions with traders in five cities in Gujarat and also via online platform ‘Your wish, Our Commitment,’ an initiative by the party to crowd-source ideas for its manifesto.
Pitroda, a Gandhi family friend, has been tasked by Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi to tap into the anger of the urban youths in the state who are miffed with lack of job opportunities and suggest a roadmap to create an environment for them to become self-employed. Besides, demonetisation and GST have further hit the small traders, party managers feel.
“There is no ease of doing business in Gujarat. The traders want the Congress to address the issue if it is voted to power. We will highlight the factor in our poll manifesto,” said a Congress strategist. A source said this fits the party’s campaign that Gujarat has been prosperous due to its hard-working and entrepreneurial people and not because of the BJP rule over the past 22 years.
To connect with the trader community, Rahul has held extensive discussions with them in textiles and diamond business hubs like Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara. He also visited powerloom plants in Surat and listened to traders’ woes on November 8, the first anniversary of demonetisation.
Another issue flagged by Gujarat’s voters during the interactions was the lack of opportunities for higher education, which the youth wanted delivered through a public-private partnership model, Congress managers said. To address the unemployment issue, the party is enrolling educated youth in a scheme under which either jobs will be provided to them over five years or unemployment allowance will be given. The strategy had worked for the Congress in Punjab.
The manifesto, which also focuses on women voters, is likely to be unveiled next week, party leaders said. Mahila Congress chief Sushmita Dev has addressed conclaves of women voters across the state and also deployed party functionaries to train them. The manifesto is expected to reflect issues affecting the various districts.