Encourages them to face global challenges and adapt to modern practices

New Delhi : Narendra Modi on Thursday surprised all by telling family-owned small retail traders to learn from the large modern stores and online shops in a comment that signalled a shift in his party’s thinking on opposing foreign supermarkets lest they wipe out millions of grocery stores and traders that are the backbone of the party’s support.

Sketching out his economic views ahead of the parliamentary elections, he chose not to touch at all on the BJP’s opposition to the FDI in retail trade and instead asserted that “trading community should not run away from global challenges…they should not think they will die if businesses go online.”

He was addressing a conference of the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on ‘Economic Growth – The way forward’ and sounded clearly that it is not a way forward to oppose the multinationals setting shops in India.

“A small town buyer is also looking for branded products. We should not meet to decide how to escape from this but how to take it on. You should enhance your quality to compete better and filter out those whose quality is suspect,” he said advising the traders to better join hands with big online retailers. “The government should not look to curb online trade. We should not worry about these things, our children have taken IT to the world. We”ll have to embrace it.”

Modi also said he favoured introducing a nation-wide goods and services tax (GST), a long-planned reform of the UPA government stalled by the opposition-ruled states, as he said it will usher in a uniform market, cut business costs and boost government revenue. He also gave glimpses of his vision of a job driven economy with special focus on power, manufacturing and infrastructure.

Businessmen, investment bankers and economists, who had assembled to hear from Modi at least few details on how he would steer the economy having the slowest growth for a decade if he came to power. He said the BJP would cut red tape by reducing the number of laws that put brakes on businesses as if all in business are “thieves.”

While businessmen had come hoping that Modi would vow to make opposition to foreign retailers a part of the party”s manifesto, which is due to be released in another 10, 12 days, he appeared setting a strategic direction different from the BJP thrust all these months since the UPA government tried to open up the multi-product retail trade to the foreign companies.

As a BJP leader commented, the party has to follow a different policy in the opposition to oppose certain government policies and another policy when it is just on the threshold of assuming power.

Earlier in the morning, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley lambasted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for India”s current economic problems, pointing out that he never stepped in to stop the wrong decisions despite being the last word in the UPA government.

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