All big parties came together in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday to usher in the country’s biggest tax reform and supported, albeit with caveats, the four bills related to the Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Opening the debate, former Congress minister Veerappa Moily accused the BJP of delaying the passage of the legislation during the UPA era. “India lost a whopping Rs12 lakh crore due to years of delay,” he said.
Even as the Congress is supporting the bills that aim to roll out a seamless, pan-Indian tax structure, replacing the myriad state-level levies, it termed the NDA’s GST bill as a “baby step.”
“What the NDA government has brought about in the name of a revolutionary tax reform is not a game changer but only a baby step,” Moily said, contradicting finance minister Arun Jaitley’s earlier announcement.
Moily, who heads the finance panel in Parliament, said it will be a “technological nightmare” and the anti-profiteering provisions in it are “far too draconian”.
“Seven to eight years have passed after the erstwhile UPA government wanted to bring the GST Bill. Some parties then felt it should be halted due to reasons best known to them,” he quipped. The Congress also pointed out that the slogan of “one nation, one tax” is a myth as there will be too many tax rates.
AIADMK, which had opposed the GST bill when J Jayalalithaa was alive, came out in support of the legislation. Its lawmaker Venkatesh Babu hailed the GST as the “biggest tax reform initiative” while underlining the challenges in its implementation.
The AIADMK was earlier apprehensive about the GST as it feared that the state’s revenue will take a hit. But on Wednesday, Babu said, “There will be huge revenue loss to states involved in manufacturing like Tamil Nadu. Some of our concerns were addressed while some are yet to be addressed,” he said.
Trinamool Congress member Kalyan Banerjee demanded that the credit should not go to the Centre alone as different states have come together to support the GST. Snatching away the credit from the Centre, Banerjee said, “It was West Bengal which ensured that no state government suffers financially due to the implementation of GST.”
Banerjee also suggested the Centre should look into the models of GST in other countries to make a full-proof mechanism.
Samajwadi Party patriarch Mulayam Singh Yadav couldn’t help deviate from a Parliament debate on the proposed GST on Wednesday to accuse the BJP of winning the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections on false promises.
Also, he defended his party’s track record in the state. His defence of the government led by his son Akhilesh Yadav surprised parliamentarians as the party suffered a huge defeat in the February-March elections, despite a tie-up with the Congress.
(With inputs from PTI)