Congress, Left, DMK, Trinamool to skip GST launch event in Parliament
The GST will replace about 20 central and state taxes such as factory-gate duties, service and local taxes while unifying Asia’s third-largest economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market. But the system has attracted protests over new tax rates.Updated: Jun 29, 2017 19:01 IST
The Congress led a string of opposition parties that decided to boycott the goods and services tax (GST) rollout in Parliament on Friday, saying the country was “ill-prepared” for its implementation.
The Trinamool Congress, the ruling party in West Bengal, was the first to decide against attending the midnight function at Parliament’s Central Hall to usher in the new uniform tax regime.
The Congress, Left parties and DMK followed suit on Thursday.
The GST will replace about 20 central and state taxes such as factory-gate duties, service and local taxes while unifying Asia’s third-largest economy and 1.3 billion people into a single market.
But the system has attracted protests over new tax rates such as 3% for gold, and between 18% and 28% for essential commodities.
Small- and medium-scale entrepreneurs, traders, weavers and informal sector workers have been protesting across the country over the tax rates.
“Left parties will not participate. There are serious apprehensions in the minds of people over GST’s implementation. We cannot be celebrating when people are agitating,” CPI leader D Raja said.
The Rajya Sabha member argued that the GST will harshly affect the informal sector, which creates 80% of jobs in the country.
CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury said his party has not issued a whip to its parliamentarians, which means any party member choosing to skip the meeting won’t face consequences.
When a party issues a whip, its MPs have to obey the party position or face disciplinary action.
The Congress decision came after party chief Sonia Gandhi met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with other leaders.
Singh and another former Prime Minister, HD Deve Gowda, were invited to the event that President Pranab Mukherjee is likely to attend. Sources said Singh could skip the event.
Party leader Anand Sharma said the “country is ill-prepared for the GST rollout”.
He said the GST was conceptualised by the Congress and the BJP stalled it for seven years. “We repeatedly cautioned the government that it is not ‘one-nation one-tax’, neither is it a perfect bill,” Sharma said.
Besides, the Congress argued that the GST rollout didn’t warrant a midnight session at Parliament’s Central Hall as such an august event was held only thrice in history and all were related to India’s Independence.
“Probably for BJP, the years 1947, 1972 and 1997 are not important as they did not take part in the freedom struggle,” party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said.
The DMK, which was part of the Congress-led UPA government for 10 years till 2014, will not attend the special event in Parliament.
“It is only a function to announce a new tax law. Such fanfare function was not held earlier when banks and insurance companies were nationalized and several other landmark bills were passed,” DMK spokesman TKS Elangovan said.
He and Congress leaders alleged that the government was trying to gain publicity from the new tax mechanism.
“Nobody knows how the GST is going to impact trade, business or the common man,” Elangovan said.
First Published: Jun 29, 2017 18:54 IST