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Left, Right and Centre: Meet the four architects of the GST bill

Here are the four people without whom India’s biggest tax reform -- the Goods and Services Tax -- would not have been possible.

business Updated: Jul 06, 2017 09:59 IST
Suchetana Ray
Not one but four governments and four people can be credited for the new Goods and Services Tax that was rolled out on July 1.
Not one but four governments and four people can be credited for the new Goods and Services Tax that was rolled out on July 1.(PTI photo)

The work on Goods and Services Tax (GST) began in India almost 17 years back, with a focus on simplifying a complicated maze of state and central indirect taxes. As many as 175 officials worked tirelessly for more than 18,000 man hours in the past six months to ensure the four GST bills were placed and passed by the Parliament in the budget session. Subsequently the GST Council ensured that rates are fixed and rules formalised.

HT identifies four people without whom India’s biggest tax reform would not have been possible.

Asim Dasgupta

Asim Dasgupta Ex Finance Minister of West Bengal at press meet at party head office in Alimuddin Street. photo by Indranil Bhoumik/mint on 19 may, 2011

In 2000, the government set up an expert committee to begin discussions on GST, it was headed by then West Bengal finance minister Asim Dasgupta. A few years later, Dasgupta returned as the head of the empowered committee of state finance ministers to thrash out the new indirect tax. The MIT professor-turned Marxist leader held long discussions with other states, industry bodies and other stakeholders to carve a GST model.

Vijay Kelkar

Former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar (HT file photo)

The Kelkar Task Force on the implementation of the FRBM Act, 2003, pointed out problems of a cascading indirect tax regime. It suggested a comprehensive GST based on a value-added tax principle. As chairman of the 13th finance commission, Vijay Kelkar again pitched for GST. He was also the first to propose the formation of a national GST Council.

P Chidambaram

Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram during the 2013-14 Union budget in New Delhi. (Reuters file photo)

P Chidambaram was the first finance minister to include the proposal for an indirect tax reform in the Union budget of 2006. After his return to North Block that houses the finance ministry in 2012, Chidambaram worked tirelessly, created committees and sub-committees to ensure all state grievances are noted and resolutions found. He set a deadline of December 2012 to resolve all issues raised by states. But with Lok Sabha elections approaching in 2014, it was difficult for him to get to the finish line.

Arun Jaitley

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley leaves after the launch of 'Goods and Services Tax (GST)' at Parliament in New Delhi. (PTI file photo)

Finally, it’s the BJP government which will be credited for ushering in one of the biggest tax reforms of India. But bulk of the credit has to go to finance minister Arun Jaitley, whose efforts since 2014 made the impossible possible by getting all states to put aside their political agenda and support GST. Even during moments of hopelessness, Jaitley batted for consensus. His friendly overtures towards Congress in the Rajya Sabha ensured the passage of a constitutional amendment in August 2016, paving the way for GST.

Watch | The journey of GST: From Proposal to Implementation