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Punjab Congress chief Jakhar differs with CM Amarinder on GST, toes Rahul’s line

The state party chief says the GST is neither a good nor a simple tax and will hit small traders and businesses.

punjab Updated: Jul 03, 2017 09:33 IST
Sukhdeep Kaur
Sukhdeep Kaur
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Sunil Jakhar,Amarinder Singh,GST
Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar (HT Photo)

Chandigarh Indicating that the leadership of the state Congress and the chief minister were not on the same page, Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar has called the Goods and Service Tax (GST) ‘complicated’.

Toeing the line of his party (also the stand of the national vice-president Rahul Gandhi), Jahkar said, “The party stand is very clear. The GST, in its present form, is complicated and will hit small industry and traders hard. Tax authorities will harass traders.”

He went to add, “It was the Congress that had first proposed GST but the spirit of the reform is missing and it is unacceptable in the present form.”

Rahul Gandhi had also expressed similar views in a recent tweet that said, “GST was ....half-baked and being executed by an incompetent and insensitive government without planning foresight and institutional readiness.”

However, Amarinder has expressed a different view. On the eve of its imposition from July 1, Amarinder had welcomed GST. He claimed that the Congress was not opposed to the new tax regime but only the way the Modi government was organising the event — a special midnight session at Parliament Central Hall. He had added that GST will boost debt-stressed Punjab’s revenue.

Punjab finance minister Manpreet Badal too had welcomed GST, saying it could turnaround the fiscal position of Punjab.

Previously too, CM Amarinder has broken ranks with his party to openly support the Narendra Modi government on surgical strikes and an army officer using a human shield in Kashmir to ward off stone pelters, his party in now differing with the CM’s views on the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Amarinder had struck a discordent note with his party even in the monsoon session of the Parliament in August 2015 when the Congress had stalled the GST bill, calling it “flawed”.

In a statement issued then, Captain had hailed GST as “crucial” for a state like Punjab, which was under a huge debt and as its trade and industry were wilting. “Punjab will suffer the most if GST is stalled,” he had then said.

Though Punjab had been getting GST-ready under the previous SAD-BJP government by registering dealers for the new system, Manpreet has said their government will hit the road to allay concerns of traders and small industry as Punjab stands to gain tax buoyancy post-GST and emerge as a lucrative investment destination.

Two views on Fastway too

It is not just GST on which the Congress is speaking in two voices but also the “cable mafia” it had promised to end in its poll manifesto. Local government minister Navjot Sidhu had announced to go after Fastway, which has monopoly over Punjab’s cable business, during the recent session of the Punjab assembly.

Accusing Fastway of “robbing” the state of crores of rupees by not paying entertainment and sales tax besides charges for digging roads to lay cable, Sidhu had announced that they have issued notices to the company.

But Amarinder, who had more than once warned Fastway against “bullying” cable operators in run-up to 2012 and 2017 elections, has so far maintained a studied silence on Sidhu’s assertions, saying he is “not aware” of the tax evasion.

While speaking to the media on Sunday, Sidhu cited a report of 270 junior engineers to claim Fastway would have to pay a “heavy penalty”.

“Fastway did not pay the government for digging roads, except for Zirakpur. Reliance too set up optical fibre in Punjab but they paid for it. Permissions are needed from the PWD, the Railways, the state power corporation and municipal corporation or council. Fastway will have to pay the penalty,” Sidhu said.

Replying to a query on the CM “feigning ignorance” about the illegalities committed by Fastway, Sidhu said the CM did not know about it and had asked him to look into it. “The final action against Fastway will be taken by the CM,” he added.

First Published: Jul 03, 2017 09:33 IST