Maharashtra Congress' 'Gandhigiri' against striking traders



Mumbai: The ruling Congress in Maharashtra would resort to 'Gandhigiri' to reach out to traders protesting against the local body tax (LBT) and remove their "misconception" about the new levy.

Party workers will personally meet the traders, who have been resorting to frequent bandh, and explain them how the new tax regime would benefit them.

The workers will visit the shopkeepers and traders, give them flowers and explain details of the tax and how it will benefit them, Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee (MPCC) spokesman Sachin Sawant told reporters here on Monday.

He said they will seek to remove their "misconception" about LBT, a tax traders would have to pay to the local civic body on goods they bring to the city.

"We will also appeal to them to call off their strike," Sawant said, adding the workers will personally meet the traders in all municipal corporation limits, where the tax has been levied.

Asked about MNS President Raj Thackeray's threat that his workers would forcibly open the shops if the traders do not withdraw their strike, Sawant said Congress is not in favour of people taking law into their hands. "The trading community is also an important part of the society."

He said the LBT Act was introduced in 2009 and the new tax structure is being implemented in the State in a phased manner. "Those opposing the tax now, had welcomed it in 2009 in the legislature," Sawant said, apparently referring to Opposition Shiv Sena-BJP who are supporting the traders.

The MPCC spokesman said Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan is open to discussions with the agitating traders.

"Chavan has said he is willing to increase the annual turnover limit to Rs five lakh for levy of LBT on lines of VAT. Similarly, he has agreed to exclude small traders and hawkers from the ambit of LBT."

"To dispel fear of return of "inspector raj", Chavan has clarified that permission to raid those evading LBT will have to be taken at the Secretary level," Sawant said.

PTI