File photo of Arun Jaitley. Photograph:( Reuters )
Union Minister Arun Jaitley on Sunday made his first public appearance in two months via a video conferencing when he addressed the first anniversary of the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), India's biggest economic reform since independence.
Jaitley stopped coming to office in early April owing to a kidney-related ailment. He underwent a kidney transplant on May 14, following which the charge of the Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs, which he had been holding since the BJP stormed to power in May 2014, was given on an interim basis to Railways and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal.
While he was being treated for a kidney ailment, Jaitley on May 3 chaired the GST Council meeting, his last public appearance.
Since his surgery, he is confined to a controlled environment of his home to avoid contracting infection. He has held meetings with finance ministry officials through video conferencing from his home but had not made any public appearance.
Today was his first public appearance and he looked a bit frail physically but relaxed in a white pinstripe shirt during his 21-minute speech.
In his speech, he said GST has helped in boosting direct tax collections in the April-June quarter of this fiscal.
He also said that as tax collections go up, further rate rationalisation would be possible.
"... The long-term impact of GST and on India's GDP growth, on ease of doing business, on the expansion of trade and business and make in India and honest trade and business centres, is going to be significant. I'm confident that the best of GST in terms of its contribution to society is yet to come," Jaitley said.
During the three months since April, Jaitley has kept himself busy writing blogs on issues ranging from GST to terrorism to imposition of emergency by Indira Gandhi. He was the chief defendant of the government on the issue of rising in deposits in Swiss banks.
He even announced the resignation of Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian who had through a video conferencing with him, conveyed his decision to quit.
Besides, Jaitley had defended government's economic policy against the onslaught of former finance minister P Chidambaram and the opposition Congress party. He even wrote about the recent judicial verdicts, amendment to the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code done through an ordinance.
He narrated four-year's BJP-led NDA government's performance as well as attacked Congress president Rahul Gandhi for his knowledge and slammed the opposition parties for trying to impeach Chief Justice of India.