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GST launch in Parliament: Congress boycotts as NCP, JD-U, JD-S decide to attend

LiveMint logoLiveMint 30-06-2017 PTI

New Delhi: Keeping up its attack on the government on the goods and services tax (GST) issue, the Congress on Friday dubbed its midnight launch as a “tamasha” (gimmick) saying it was being rushed in a “half-baked” manner as a “self-promotional spectacle” while Mamata Banerjee feared it would bring back the dreaded “Inspector Raj”.

Parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) and the Janata Dal-Secular (JD-S) have broken ranks with the opposition and would attend the event, which is being boycotted by the Congress, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the Left parties.

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Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who is currently abroad on a holiday, hit out at the government, accusing it of being insensitive in rolling out GST without planning, foresight and institutional readiness, as it did during demonetisation.

“A reform that holds great potential is being rushed through in a half-baked way with a self-promotional spectacle #GSTTamasha (sic),” he said on Twitter.

The Congress leader said India deserved a GST rollout that did not put crores of its ordinary citizens, small businesses and traders through tremendous pain and anxiety.

“Unlike demonetisation, GST is a reform that Congress has championed and backed from the beginning...But like demonetisation, GST is being executed by an incompetent and insensitive Govt without planning foresight and institutional readiness,” he said in a series of tweets.

In a scathing attack on the government, West Bengal chief minister Banerjee said the GST rules would lead to harassment of small traders and businesses. “At the stroke of midnight on 14th August, 1947, India won her freedom. Now, at the midnight of 30th June, 2017, freedom and democracy stand to face grave danger,” she said in a Facebook post. “The mockery of Inspector Raj is back,” she said on the social networking site.

Banerjee, a strong critic of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the centre, said she is shocked that the GST rules contain a “draconian” arrest clause, including a non-bailable section, which can lead to major harassment of businessmen.

Justifying its divergent position from that of most opposition parties, senior NCP leader Tariq Anwar said, “We agree with the Congress to an extent, but we supported the legislation when it was introduced (in Parliament and state assemblies). The party has hence decided to attend the midnight meeting.”

Former prime minister and JD-S supremo H.D. Deve Gowda and NCP supremo Sharad Pawar would be present at the mega event, which is expected to be attended by actor Amitabh Bachchan and industrialist Ratan Tata, among others.

Chief Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said the BJP government had imposed the “highest ever GST rate in the world”, unlike the erstwhile United Progressive Alliance (UPA) dispensation which had proposed putting a cap of 18% on tax. He said the BJP government’s “cumbersome GST with 5-tier tax structure” would affect the livelihood of shopkeepers, traders and small businessmen.

“Spirit of GST bill of Congress was-’Single, Simple, Transparent, Uncomplicated Tax and Reducing Inflation’. Present GST is just the opposite...’Complicated and Compliance Cost Burden’ defines BJP’s GST...,” he said in a few tweets.

The Congress is boycotting the event on grounds that a taxation reform could not be equated to midnight celebrations of Indian Independence the Parliament’s central hall has seen on 15 August 1947, and later on 25 years of freedom in 1972. It was followed by the celebration of the golden jubilee of Independence in 1997.

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