NEW DELHI: BJP's prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi on Thursday urged Indian business not to fear global challenges and vowed to smash the web of complex rules with an overhaul of the governance structure.
Modi, who spoke at three events in the national capital, used the opportunity to give some indication of his economic vision in the lead-up to the national elections later in the year. His critics, including finance minister P Chidambaram, have raised doubts about his knowledge of economics and ability to tackle complex economic issues while his backers cite his record as Gujarat chief minister and his development model.
Modi urged the traders to embrace modern science and technology to deepen their markets and start virtual malls in small shops by forging pacts with large players.
"I don't know whether it will benefit me politically or not... There is no need to be scared by the global challenges. Convert the challenges into opportunity," Modi said, while urging them to concentrate on quality and weeding out unscrupulous elements.
"You ask the government to help you build your capabilities to meet the global challenges. The government should focus on that and not say close online. How will you stop online?" asked Modi urging the traders to improve their delivery systems and step up online marketing.
He said the consumers in small towns and cities have become brand conscious and small traders should seize the opportunity to service this demand.
"Do not be scared by these things. Our children have taken IT to the world. You have to embrace modern science and technology. Set up e-commerce. You can set up virtual malls in small shops," Modi said without committing his stance on allowing foreign retailers in the country.
The BJP has opposed the entry of global retailers such as Wal-Mart and Tesco and its government in Rajasthan has reversed a decision to allow foreign chains in the multi-brand retail sector.
Modi, who is seen as a tough administrator, also called for eliminating outdated laws which have stifled the common man and the business community.
"Sometimes I feel that there is a need to devise a law which would ensure that a new law will be enacted only when 10 old and outdated laws are done away with," Modi said, while calling for an across the board overhaul of government machinery.
"A massive web of laws has been created. Give us strength so that we can end these laws every week. Laws should be simple, easy and should empower the common man," he said.
He also said the tendency to run the country from Delhi should be abandoned and states should be empowered and the Centre should take the states into confidence while devising development strategies.
He said the external affairs ministry must reorient itself to meet the challenges of a rapidly changing world.
"Our external affairs ministry is working based on the old model...diplomacy, intelligence gathering. This is an old formulaic way of running a ministry. Times have changed. The main function of the External Affairs ministry is trade and commerce. Develop Trade diplomacy, commerce diplomacy," Modi said.
He said efforts must be made to raise the purchasing power of the common man which would benefit the business community and ultimately the government through higher revenues.
"Small traders will be able to sell their products when the purchasing power of the common man will increase. If the purchasing power of the common man increases then he will buy goods from the shop and then it flow to the manufacturer. If all this happen then the government will also get revenues," Modi said and called for urgent measures to strengthen and boost the economy.
"I am a person who believes in reforms," Modi said and cited the example of how his state had simplified VAT forms on the request from traders within days "We can simplify processes and we can allow traders to concentrate on their businesses," he said.
Speaking at a conclave of economists and policy-makers later in the day, Modi took a jibe at the Congress leadership saying: "We are poor, if this is the mindset of the leadership, we can do little to change the situation." The Gujarat CM said the country had lost its chance after Independence when the government failed to provide opportunity and possibilities to people.
He said India had enough resources to lead the world on development. "Our strength is a young population, a vibrant democracy and a country with high demand," Modi said, adding that these three elements were an advantage, and if strategies are built around them development would not remain an issue.
Modi said India, which was a leader among BRICS countries has now been sidelined. "We have lost a whole decade and we will need to start all over again to catch up with them," he said.
The Gujarat CM said the country faced a situation of deficit on multiple front not just the fiscal deficit. "It is deficit of governance, deficit in strengthening democratic institutions, deficit of trust, security and a moral deficit (of leadership)," Modi said and adding that the government should be an enabler to provide an environment for businessmen to do their business with ease.
"We need direction, determination and dedication... We need good governance. Bad governance is like diabetes which invites all kinds of ailments," he said.
"There is despondency. We have lost confidence. If we can regain confidence, we can not only move but can also run," Modi said.
On Centre-state relation, the Gujarat CM said: "One tailor-made situation doesn't fit all, instead we should recognise the strength of states."
"The day PM will be from state, he will give them opportunity and will strengthen the federal structure. More we strengthen the federal structure, it will be beneficial for the development. PM and CMs should work together and bring a change, not the PM and his cabinet."