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GST Raids on UP Traders May Impact Civic Polls

Ahead of the Uttar Pradesh urban local body polls, the state wide raids on traders to detect GST evasion has left a bitter state in the community’s mouth. The trader community is a key voter group in the urban local body polls which is expected to be watched keenly as it is the last major one in the state before the 2024 general elections. The raids were started in 71 of the 75 districts across the state on December 5. However, a week later, the state government halted the raids owing to protests across cities by the trader community. The urban local body polls are generally fought on local issues related to road infrastructure, water and electricity among others. However, these raids were driven at the state government level though tax is a central issue. Traders and businessmen make for a significant chunk of the voters in the urban local body polls. BJP had won 14 of the 16 mayoral positions in the state in 2017, except for Meerut and Aligarh which were won by BSP. Being held less than six months after the GST was launched in the country, the 2017 results were also touted by the BJP as a validation of the tax by the trader community residing in urban areas.

Trader organisations told ET that while the drive has definitely “terrorised” the community and has instilled a sense of deep suspicion among traders about the state government but it is unclear whether it will impact polls or not. “The intent of the government was to check tax evasion but officials started carrying out a general survey. Many traders shut their shops out of fear. Even though the raids have been halted, there is a faint sense that it has been done keeping in mind the elections,” Sanjay Gupta, president, UP Adarsh Vyapar Mandal told ET. “If you harass someone, there is bound to be a reaction, however big or small it may be.”Mahendra Jain Mayur, chairman of the UP Udyog Vyapar Mandal, said the traders are both ‘terrorised’ and ‘suspicious’. “The resentment is definitely there as BJP is considered a party of traders. However, the government seems to have managed the situation for now,” he said. S-ET.

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