After his statement criticising delay in the passage of the GST bill created flutters in the political circles, Congress deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh on Sunday justified his stand saying that the new law would help Punjab. He also denied having differences with the party high command.
Talking to HT after attending the "Bhog" of former minister Chaudhary Jagjit Singh in Dhaliwal village, Amarinder said every MP had the right to speak. "You tow the party line in the House. But MPs have their own views. None of us are dummies who will sit back. We have the right to speak whatever comes in our mind," said the Congress leader, whose remarks on the bill are being seen as a challenge to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice-president Rahul Gandhi.
He said the GST was the Congress' programme. "The passage of the GST bill was important for Punjab which is reeling under a debt of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. The state government is not in a position to meet its statutory obligations. Once the GST is in place, Punjab's revenue will jump by 20-25%. By not allowing the passage of the bill, we have lost a big share of money," said Amarinder.
In a release issued by his office, Amarinder also dismissed the assumptions that he had any differences with the party high command on the passage of the bill in Parliament. "At times, different issues crop up at state and central levels at same time and our response and stand depend on our respective priorities," he said, adding that the GST was important for debt-ridden Punjab as it would help in generation of extra revenue.
He also clarified that the Congress had the valid reason to stall the proceedings in Parliament as it wanted removal of tainted BJP leaders. "My saying something while keeping in view the interests of Punjab does not mean I have any differences with the party leadership," he said.
On reports of seizure of detonators from an Akali leader's vehicle recently in the Lambi area, Amarinder said: "It is a serious matter and needs to be probed. I don't rule out the possibility of chief minister Parkash Singh Badal's tacit approval for the same. I know Badal quite well and he can always resort to such games the moment he realises that power was slipping out of his hands," said Amarinder.
To a question about chief parliamentary secretary Dr Navjot Kaur Sidhu's hunger strike in Amritsar to press for her demands, Amarinder, who is MP from Amritsar, said he agreed with her.
He made it clear that he had never met any of the BJP leaders, including its president Amit Shah. Amarinder said he met Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the Gujarat chief minister.
Harsimrat asks Amarinder to educate Gandhis on GST
Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Sunday took a dig at the Congress highlighting the reservations expressed by party's deputy leader in the Lok Sabha Captain Amarinder Singh over stalling of the GST bill in Parliament.
"Amarinder should explain the merits of the GST bill to Rahul Gandhi," Harsimrat said in a statement here. "Much as I welcome your belated support to the GST bill, it puzzles me why you did not attend Parliament session and speak in favour of the bill?" she questioned.
"There is also speculation that you have spoken in favour of the GST to spite the Congress high command which is denying you leadership of the state unit," she said, adding that Amarinder could write an open letter to the Gandhi family explaining how the introduction of the GST bill would spur growth and boost economy.
Harsimrat also asked Punjab Congress chief Partap Singh Bajwa to come clear on the GST bill. "Bajwa must clarify whether he wants to safeguard the interests of Punjab by supporting the GST bill or wants to save his chair by towing the line of the Gandhi family. It is surprising that Bajwa has chosen to remain silent on an issue of national concern," she added.