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PM Modi fires GST barb at Rahul Gandhi as Gujarat poll pitch gets intense

It was a day of verbal vitriol in Saurashtra on Wednesday when jibes and counter-jibes flew thick and fast as Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi and Patidar quota stir leader Hardik Patel unleashed a fiery blitzkrieg with 10 days to go for the first phase of voting in Gujarat. Attacking Rahul for calling goods and services tax 'Gabbar Singh Tax', Modi said those who have looted the country for 70 years can only relate to dacoits. He called Congress's demand for 18% cap on GST a 'Grand Stupid Thought.' "Some intellectuals and economists are misleading the country. Congress wants the same 18% tax on something as essential as salt and something as expensive as a car worth Rs 5 crore. They want 28% tax on alcohol and costly cigarettes to be reduced to 18%. Do you want to sell cheap alcohol and spread cancer by selling cheap cigarettes? This is nothing but a 'Grand Stupid Thought'. There can't be any bigger anti-poor and anti-middle class thought," Modi told a public rally in Morbi. A couple of hours later, Rahul hit back in Visavadar saying Congress had insisted on uniform 18% GST, but opposed taxing all items consumed by the poor tooth and nail. Sticking to the 'Gabbar Singh Tax' jibe, he said, "Just the way Gabbar Singh carried out dacoities at 12 midnight, the same way you implemented GST at midnight." With 48 out of the total 182 seats, Saurashtra is to Gujarat assembly what Uttar Pradesh is to Lok Sabha. Modi covered 25 assembly constituencies in his four rallies held in Morbi, Prachi, Palitana — all in Saurashtra — and Navsari in south Gujarat. Rahul, who has embarked a two-day campaign trail, will cover 16 constituencies in Amreli, Gir-Somnath, Bhavnagar, Junagadh and Botad districts in Saurashtra. PM Modi came down heavily on Congress after Rahul's tweet seeking account of BJP's 22-year Gujarat rule. He said the party, whose one family has looted the country for 70 years, has no guts to give the account of their "seven decades of misrule". "22 salon ka hisaab, Gujarat mange jawaab (Gujarat demands answers for 22 years of BJP rule)," Rahul had tweeted in the morning. "Congress has become a liability on this country. Its survival is under threat," Modi said in Prachi, few hours after Rahul offered prayers at the temple. Rahul's roadshows were held almost the same time Modi addressed the rallies in Saurashtra. The Congress vice-president dubbed Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani as a 'rubber stamp' and said it was national BJP president Amit Shah who was running the show here with a remote control. "Don't you dare ask for anything or question the government in this region. You will be beaten, shot and your women too would be thrashed," he said in Amreli. Hardik Patel, who held a rally 40 km away around the same time Modi addressed a rally in Morbi, took on the PM over GST and claimed that the government was forced to reduce the tax rates after he met the ceramic industry captains. He also scoffed Modi who recalled how he had rushed to Morbi following the Machchu dam tragedy in 1979. "Entire Gujarat had rushed to help Morbi residents. It is the inherent nature of Gujaratis to help in tragedy," Hardik said.

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