As midnight launch boycotts increase, government questions U-turn on GST
Cloth merchants and workers shout slogans before burning the effigies depicting India's Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Textiles Minister Smriti Irani during a protest against implementation of GST on textiles in Kolkata on June 29. Photograph: (Reuters)
The Centre on Friday questioned the Congress Party and the Trinamool Congress's (TMC) over its U-turn on the Goods and Service Tax (GST) and asked why they weren't supporting the government now when they backed the uniform tax regime in the Parliament.
Opposition parties, led by the Congress, have dismissed the event as a "publicity gimmick".
The exceptions are the Sharad Pawar-led Nationalist Congress Party and former PM HD Dewe Gowda's Janata Dal Secular, who have said they will attend the event, which will also be attended by celebrities including actor Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Ratan Tata.
India deserves a #GST rollout that does not put crores of its ordinary citizens, small businesses & traders through tremendous pain &anxiety— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) June 30, 2017
"GST is the most important economic change after India's Independence. It is a historic day and after the rolling out of GST it will be easy to do business. Through this people will gain from the indirect benefits. In Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha Congress and TMC supported this. They should support in even now," Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal said.
The minister was reiterating Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's statement yesterday that the GST had been formed with the consensus of the states and a consideration of their suggestions.
Minister of State (Development Ministry) Jitendra Singh said GST would be a "gamechanger in India's economic road map for the future."
"It is not a mere economic reform, but it is a game changer in India's economic road map for the future. But at the same time it is also going to be a new values addition to the character of India Republic. It is an occasion of celebration and rededicating ourselves to the service of nation by each and every citizen of India," he said.
Earlier on Friday, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu urged the Congress Party to "realise and rethink" their stand and join the government for the midnight Parliament session.
"It's really unfortunate because they are distancing themselves from the process of reformation in the country. I hope they (Congress) realise by evening and re-think and join us in the Central Hall," Naidu said.
"I still appeal to the Congress and other parties boycotting GST event to reconsider. It's not a party function," he added.
The Congress Party yesterday said that it would boycott the midnight meeting on the GST roll-out, dismissing it as a publicity stunt.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge pointed out that previous governments had not celebrated landmark the passing of landmark reforms in Parliament including the Right to Information Act, the Food Security Act and the MNREGA.
"We are boycotting this midnight celebration. In UPA government; Right to Information (RTI) Act, Food Security Act, MNREGA, Right to Education laws were passed which were beneficial for people. But, we never made celebration for such things in central hall. The BJP is doing publicity only in which they are master," Mallikarjun Kharge said.
Apart from the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Samajwadi Party, the Left, and the DMK have also decided to boycott a special sitting of the two parliament chambers -- to be held by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the tax takes effect at midnight on Friday.
Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar will not attend the event. State minister Vijendra Yadav will represent the Janata Dal (United) on his behalf.
The GST, which rolls out at midnight today, will bring the Indian economy under a single tax bracket.
There have only been three previous midnight sittings in India's history, to mark India's independence in 1947 and the 25th and 50th anniversaries.
Congress said the nationalist government was "insulting the very memory of India's freedom struggle and the sacrifices associated with it".
Rashtriya Janata Dal party spokesman Manoj Kumar Jha said the party would "boycott this mega spectacle of optical illusion".
"Though we have been in favour of GST, we believe there are pressing concerns, particularly among the small- and medium-level traders and manufacturing units, which remain unaddressed," he said.
The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) on Friday backed the GST and questioned, why political parties were creating a fuss over its launch when they unanimously passed the tax reform in the Parliament.
The GST is to be rolled out Saturday even as businesses complain they are ill-prepared for the massive changes about to ripple through India's unwieldy economy.
Watch WION's Kartikeya Sharma on GST rollout: