Opposition BJP and ruling Congress on Saturday joined hands to adopt Himachal Pradesh Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill at a two-day special session of the state Assembly even as both sides also tried to take credit for “consensus” on the Bill at the national level.
CM Virbhadra Singh, who also holds a finance portfolio, moved the Bill, which was promptly endorsed by the lone opposition party BJP as the “biggest economic reform” in the independent India. While the Opposition gave sole credit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Congress leaders recalled how former PM Dr Manmohan Singh and two former finance ministers, Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram, worked for the passage of the Bill. After over an hour-long debate in favour of the Bill, the House voted for ir unanimously, at the end of which an excited CM raised slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai and Jai Himachal”. Introducing the Bill, the CM also traced the GST Bill’s history, including efforts of the UPA-I and UPA-II in piloting the Bill which, however, could not be passed for lack of consensus among the political parties. The CM said the GST would simplify and harmonise the indirect tax regime in the state.
Initiating the debate, Leader of Opposition Prem Kumar Dhumal hailed GST as a revolutionary legislation which will reduce multiplicity of taxes and duties which had different rates in different states. “One of the important highlights of the Bill is that it has uniformity among the states and the Centre. It has also upheld the federal spirit wherein states have been made members of the council formed under the union finance minister, which met recently in Srinagar to approve a list of 1,200 items to be covered under the GST,” Dhumal said.
Transport Minister G S Bali also hailed the Bill but raised concerns about its adverse impact on the tourism industry, especially hoteliers. He asked the BJP to suggest to its MPs Shanta Kumar and J P Nadda (union minister) to take up the matter with the union finance minister.