Left, Right and Centre: Meet the four architects of the GST bill
In 2000, the government set up, for the first time, an empowered group of finance ministers to hammer out the GST bill.business Updated: Apr 14, 2017 09:15 IST
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. While 175 officials worked tirelessly for more than 18,000 man hours in the past six months to ensure the four GST bills were placed before Parliament in the budget session, HT identifies four people without whom India’s biggest tax reform would not have been possible.
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 curve a GST model.
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 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.
BJP is all set to 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 RS ensured the passing of a constitutional amendment in August 2016, paving the way for GST.