A six-member joint committee of coalition partners SAD and BJP, formed on the report by BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon two months ago, started functioning on Thursday as it held its first meeting.
The panel started functioning on a healthy note with chief minister Parkash Singh Badal hosting lunch to the panel members, who reiterated that the coalition could have a third consecutive term with “course-correction and people-centric approach”.
The panel will have the next meeting on September 2. Thursday’s meeting followed a meeting by deputy chief minister and SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal with state BJP president Kamal Sharma on Wednesday. The details of the meetings have not been made public.
After lunch with the chief minister, the panel members met at Rajya Sabha MP and SAD secretary general Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa’s house. Besides Dhindsa, Rajya Sabha MP Balwinder Singh Bhundar and MP Ranjit Singh Brahmpura represented SAD, and MLA Ashwani Sharma, Rajinder Bhandari and Narottam Dev Ratti represented the BJP.
In the initial course of discussions, it was decided to review property tax and VAT. “The overall structure of both the taxes needs to be reviewed,” a panel member said, adding that the pattern of property tax in Haryana and Delhi structure would be studied.
“We need to talk to all stakeholders – people, traders and industry -- as they play a key role in formation of the government and it was made clear that the coalition government could have a third consecutive term only after course correction and people-centric approach,” said BJP’s Ashwani Sharma.
“Certain finished products manufactured in Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh are preferred as they have much less VAT, so we need to rationalise it,” a panel member said, adding that the excise and local bodies department had been asked to submit a report on VAT and property tax respectively, on September 2.
The joint panel was constituted on August 12, exactly seven weeks after a report by a committee led by BJP leader Balramji Dass Tandon to know the reasons behind the poor performance of the SAD-BJP coalition in the parliamentary polls in Punjab. The tenure of the joint panel will be of three months.
Tandon, who has taken over as Chhattisgarh governor, had raised the issue of drugs, lack of clarity on property tax, traders and industrialists feeling ignored because of special favours to farmers and rural people, the skyrocketing prices of sand and gravel, and the Akali halqa in-charge system as the reasons for the poor performance.
Over-dependence on bureaucracy, lack of contact with public and no focus on basic amenities, some ‘counter-productive’ development schemes launched by the government, and too many changes in the tax system were also reported to have led to the poor poll performance.
“All these issues will be taken up one by one,” said a member of the joint panel.