A crucial meeting between the Centre and states over the Goods and Services Tax remained inclusive on Sunday. The government was hoping to finalise the draft laws before presenting it to the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament. Demonetisation, however, seems to have played spoilsport as far as consensus between the Centre and states is concerned. Parties at the GST council meeting have not come to a consensus and political disagreements seem to have trickled into these discussions.
The government plans to implement GST tax reform by April 1, 2017 and start its roll-out by September 1 the same year. The process needs to move swiftly but bickering over demonetisation has shifted energies and the focus away from GST.
After the last meeting in New Delhi, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac charged that the government’s demonetisation scheme had ‘eroded the mutual trust and cordial environment in which the GST discussions were going on.’ “I come from Kerala and here the central government is unilaterally destroying our entire (cooperative) structure, which accounts for more than one third of the bank deposits of Kerala. And you expect us to shake hand on the GST? It’s their (Centre’s) own making,” he said.
The minister was echoing what other major political parties have been insisting on. Apart from the Congress, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress has been spearheading the Opposition onslaught both inside and out the Parliament.
House business has taken a hit with key pieces of legislations not even coming to the table to discussion, let alone for consideration to be passed. The Opposition has been vehemently protesting against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s move to demonetise high value currency notes sending the country into a financial shock. Opposition parties have joined hands to take the fight to the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party demanding a rollback of the scheme.
Among all the hullabaloo, the Centre and more importantly the PM has stuck firm to its decision and insisted that the Opposition is exploiting the demonetisation issue to derail parliamentary proceedings with ulterior motives.
The implementation of demonetisation was undoubtedly not well thought through. But, the Opposition has to accept that after a month of exchange of currency, deposits, standing in queues, printing and distribution of millions of new notes, rollback of demonetisation is not possible, feasible or wise.
Having said that, both the government and Opposition must remind themselves that house time is precious and house business is meant for much more than creating ruckus.
It all boils down to a simple fact that the tussle between both the sides may further delay the GST implementation process. Next year, the new tax reform seeks to revamp the taxation system in the country.