The opposition Congress has pointed out that the move comes just ahead of assembly elections, with young backward caste leader Alpesh Thakore, who joined the Congress only yesterday, tweeting, "Waiving tax for select farmers just before the elections will not work. If you have to, waive loans of 74,000 farmers in Gujarat."
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi has in an aggressive campaign asked Gujarat's voters to reject the BJP's appeal for a fifth straight term in power, saying the new national tax GST that Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government implemented in July this year has brought lakhs of small traders to their knees. Yesterday, he called GST the "Gabbar Singh Tax" after the iconic fictional villain in the Bollywood film Sholay.
In his bid for Gujarat, the Congress leader has sought to rally support from communities like the Patels, Dalits and other backward classes, as well as from farmers and small traders, all groups seen to be upset over BJP policies.
The Gujarat government has in October alone announced development projects worth 18,000 crores, including a 600-crore ferry service connecting Saurashtra and south Gujarat and also interest-free farm loans up to three lakhs, benefiting 25 lakh farmers.
Dates for the Gujarat elections, expected by December are yet to announced and the Congress has accused the BJP-led Centre of pressuring the Election Commission to delay the process to allow the state government to announce sops. A model code of conduct that is enforced as soon as election dates are in prohibits announcements that can influence voters.
The commission had earlier this month announced election dates for Himachal Pradesh but not Gujarat, which the Congress said deviates from the practice of announcing poll dates together for states whose assembly terms end within a few months of each other. The terms of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh assemblies end two weeks apart in January.
The BJP has rubbished the opposition's allegation, accusing it of undermining the Election Commission, a constitutional body. The panel has explained that it was requested by the Gujarat government to allow it to finish relief and rehabilitation work for those affected by floods in the state before announcing elections.
Dates for the Gujarat elections are expected to be announced any day now.