The Congress party has a lot of proposals lined up, in its election manifesto, for the micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSME) across the country. While the party was keen to address farmers’ issues in its election manifesto for the five Assembly elections held a few months ago, it now wants to look at MSMEs, which were hit badly after demonetisation and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
The party, which has been preparing for the Lok Sabha polls since October 2018, formed an election manifesto preparation committee, headed by former finance minister P Chidambaram and with Karnataka MP Rajeev Gowda as it convener. The committee was open to suggestions from people across the country and the party did its best to reach out to people through different ways, including social media
The Congress had around 174 consultation meetings — including 121 public meetings and 53 expert consultations in person. In south India, the party held consultation meetings in 16 districts including Chennai, Coimbatore, Erode, Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, and Mysuru.
In the consultation meeting with MSMEs in Tamil Nadu, popular demands from industrialists were to simplify procedures for filing GST and to reduce the GST slab for MSMEs. According to minutes of the meeting, taking into account the negative impact of implementing GST, industrialists sought to reduce the tax slab of 18% to 5% for workers in tiny and cottage industries, and tax exemption for raw materials.
The industrialists also sought to increase the incentive which was reduced from 9.5% to 2% to boost the textile export in Coimbatore and Tirupur districts. Textile industrialists also demanded a direct benefit transfer system for the textile industry, to secure incentives and other benefits.
Similarly, the service sectors suggested bringing them all under one slab without classifying them based on the type of industry. Another common suggestion from a majority of the industrialists was to exempt the e-way bill formality up to a 150-km radius and total exemption for goods valued up to ₹5 lakh.
The suggestions received in the consultation meeting was tabled before the 21-member manifesto committee and scrutinised. Election manifesto committee convener MV Rajeev Gowda said the manifesto would reflect the inputs that were collected from the MSMEs in Coimbatore, Erode and Hosur. “We are sorting out challenges faced by MSMEs across the country. We have come out with some common problems that people face in Tamil Nadu and other states. Similarly, we found issues in textile export as well, and it will reflect in the manifesto,” he said.
Sources privy to the committee said the Congress also has bigger plans for the education and healthcare sectors. As promised by the DMK, the Congress will attempt to bring education to the state list from the concurrent list, which the party’s high command sees as the first step to changing the NEET system.
“If voted to power, it is impossible to change the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) immediately, as it follows a certain process and is an alternative way of admitting candidates into medical colleges. So, as the first step, education will be brought to the state list and later an alternative system will be brought in for MBBS admission,” said Lakshmi Ramachandran, joint coordinator of the Tamil Nadu data analytics department of the Congress. She also said the party has decided to come up with a three-slab GST system in which all the service sectors will be brought under a single slab.
The Congress received about 31,875 responses from its website set up to get suggestions for the manifesto. The party received responses in about 16 regional languages, and Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Telengana were the top five regions to send responses.