Prime Minister Narendra Modi was conciliation personified during his intervention in the Lok Sabha debate on the Constitution amendment that will enable the ‘roll out’ of the goods and services tax (GST).
In the speech that stood out for its sobriety sans the belligerence of the past, the PM was generous in his praise of political parties, the two Houses and the previous UPA regime that conceptualised the omnibus indirect tax. He hailed the amendment’s passage as a victory of the country’s “high democratic” traditions.
“Parliament set aside political differences to become the national forum that it is,” Modi told the House. He said the “unprecedented” consensus on GST would be a great source of energy for the country. “It wasn’t a journey to assert majority, it was a journey to achieve unanimity.”
The objective was to build trust between the Centre and the States to strengthen the federal structure, the PM continued. “The question isn’t as to who won or who lost. Together we’ve addressed many drawbacks in the legislation,” he argued, recalling his meeting with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh.
“In inviting both of them, I gave equal importance to both Houses,” noted Modi, taking exception to the Congress’s V Moily calling Lok Sabha the ‘junior’ House in his speech. On the Congress’s claim to ‘original authorship’ of the GST, he lightheartedly drew a parallel with lord Krishna who wasn’t brought up by parents to whom he was born.
Modi underscored the historicity of the occasion by pointing out that the Quit India movement was launched on August 8 in 1942. “On the same day, our Parliament is collectively moving to bring GST. I thank all parties and state governments for the legislation that will end tax terrorism,” he said.
In setting the stage for GST that’ll simply the indirect tax regime, protect small enterprises and curtail corruption, Parliament was sending out the message that the consumer was the king, he averred. “We’ve proved that rashtraniti is above rajniti…..”
He was disarming in his response to the Opposition’s darts that he opposed GST as chief minister of Gujarat. “There were doubts (about the tax regime). I too had doubts. As PM it was easier for me to address issues that had caused me concern as CM.”
In giving Opposition the credit for the bill’s passage, the PM compensated for not showing up in the debate in the Upper House where the NDA lacks a majority. “We can be legitimately proud…Everybody contributed creatively.”