With Trinamool Congress chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announcing that her party would boycott the June 30 midnight Parliament event to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Congress in double mind and flagging concerns, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday reminded opposition parties that all decisions on GST were taken with consensus and that the “spirit of that consensus should be maintained by all.”
He also expressed hope that every party, MP and state government will attend the launch.
Sources in the Left said its top leaders in Parliament such as Sitaram Yechury of CPI(M) and D Raja (CPI) will not attend the midnight function. The Congress appears to be in two minds, but the overwhelming view appears to be in favour of skipping the event. This section feels that the GST is being implemented in haste, and that all aspects have not been taken into consideration. This, the leaders advocating staying away contend, will lead to harassment of small traders and businessmen.
The argument against a boycott is that the UPA government was the architect of GST and the party should not leave the BJP walk with all the credit by staying away. But most party leaders said on Wednesday that there would be no role for the Congress at the midnight event.
Announcing her party’s decision to stay away, Banerjee called GST an epic blunder. “We are deeply concerned about GST implementation,” she wrote on Facebook. “After demonetisation, this unnecessary disastrous hurry is another epic blunder of the Centre. Our Parliamentary Party has decided not to attend the 30th June, 2017 midnight programme at the Parliament House to celebrate GST, as a mark of protest.”
Yechury has already questioned the “unseemly hurry with GST before putting systems in place”.
Banerjee was also of the view that the implementation of GST should have been deferred for another six months as the country’s economy is not ready to face the rollout from July 1.
Jaitley, however, assured that the system is fully geared for it and will smoothen itself out over time. He rejected as “impossible” the demand to defer its implementation.
Replying to a question at a Cabinet briefing, he said, “It has been the effort, the successful effort, of this government that all decisions related to GST were taken by and large with a consensus. Since it was done with consensus, be it among political parties, in Parliament, in Assemblies or in the government, I hope that all state governments and all parties will fully participate in it.
“We have never looked at it with a partisan angle and neither enacted it like that. We have spent so much time in making consensus and fortunately we were able to build consensus and therefore the spirit of that consensus should be maintained by all. Even the function we are organising symbolises that larger national consensus.”
On the demand to defer the launch, Jaitley said, “There is a constitutional mandate, and the mandate is (that) on 15th of September you will lose your right to collect existing taxes. So the alternate system has to come in place, and hopefully by that date the alternate system will come in place in more smooth manner…. Those talking in terms of deferring for six months or so on…that is Constitutionally impossible.”
About Jammu and Kashmir, which is yet to pass GST Bill, Jaitley said that the state government is trying to achieve that with a consensus and hoped that they are able to do it soon.