June 2017 News

Crisis Deepens As GST Deadline Approaches; Consensus Eludes

24 June 2017
The Daily Excelsior
Sanjeev Pargal

Jammu: Faced by impending crisis if implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) was delayed beyond July 1, the Government today mooted three proposals at the Consultative Group meeting comprising all major political parties but a consensus eluded with differences persisting not only between Government and Opposition but also between two coalition partners, PDP and BJP, who have contradictory approach on 'One Nation, One Tax' regime. Both major opposition parties of the State-National Conference and Congress-abstained from the meeting held in Srinagar for two and a half hours today saying the Government has not given them any proposal, supporting documents or other relevant material on the GST including the roadmap it proposes to take on the Act. Former Finance Minister and NC veteran Abdul Rahim Rather and Congress leader and former Minister, Aijaz Ahmad Khan were the two representatives of their respective political parties in the meeting and both of them abstained. Insiders told the Excelsior that veteran PDP leader and former Finance Minister Muzaffar Hussain Baig, MP, who was Chairman of the Consultative Group, mooted three proposals in the meeting including option to give concurrence and adopt Constitutional amendment by the Cabinet and implement new tax, have own GST in line with Central GST and discuss it in Assembly for broader consensus or develop consensus here, which didn't seem possible. They said after taking suggestions from the members, who attended the meeting, Baig said that he would convey their words to the Cabinet for taking 'appropriate decision'. According to sources, the BJP, which has been insisting on implementation of the GST by July 1, the countrywide deadline for roll out of new tax regime, differed with Baig in the meeting with party representative Sunil Sethi saying only one option was workable and that was adopting Constitutional amendment of GST by the Cabinet and implementation of Act by July 1 at par with all States of the country. 'We can't have our own GST. This would mean creation of 'nation within a nation'. The Cabinet should adopt the Constitutional amendment and give nod to implementation of the GST. The issue shouldn't be taken before the Legislature,' Sethi told the Excelsior quoting statement made by him in today's meeting and said there would be chaos if the GST was not implemented in the State by July 1. On the other, PDP representatives in the meeting including Baig, Finance Minister Dr Haseeb Drabu, Law Minister Abdul Haq Khan and senior party leader, Nizam-ud-Din Bhat, stuck to their stand on evolving consensus on GST before its implementation citing fiscal economy and Special Provisions of the State. Sources said Deputy Chief Minister Dr Nirmal Singh also spoke to Governor NN Vohra and Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti on telephone and called for taking all steps to rollout of the GST by July 1 to usher into the era of 'One Nation, One Tax'. Sources said there was consensus in the meeting that there would be chaos in the State if the GST was not implemented in time. It called for allaying apprehension from minds of the people created by some political parties. Sources said four senior leaders in the meeting including MY Tarigami (CPM), Hakim Mohammad Yasin and Engineer Rashid, both Independent MLAs and Ghulam Hassan Mir (DPN), former Minister jointly took one stand that nothing should be done on the GST without debate and discussion in the Legislature. 'The GST is not helpful to economy. Moreover, it was a blow on federal polity of the country,' Tarigami said, adding they too endorse demand raised by other Opposition parties that the Government has no clear stand on the GST and it hasn't supplied them with any material like roadmap to implementation of the Act, or otherwise. Independent MLA Pawan Gupta called for implementation of the GST saying there was no alternative left now as the State Government hasn't taken any step earlier. National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather, former Finance Minister, shot off a letter to Drabu citing reasons for not attending today's meeting. 'I'm constrained to remind you that in the previous meeting, the Chief Minister committed that before any further meetings are called on this issue, the Government's proposal and all supporting documents will be sent to the participants well in advance. Needless to say, this hasn't happened; in fact the invitation letter was delivered to me only a few hours before the meeting. 'I am not attending the meeting in my individual capacity. The absence of any proposal from the Government makes it impossible for my party to finalize its stand on what the Government is proposing. Therefore, it is not possible for me to attend the meeting at this late juncture,' Rather said in his letter addressed to Drabu. Congress leader Aijaz Ahmad Khan said he finds the meeting irrelevant as during All Party Meeting on June 13, the Government has assured that it would submit them all relevant documents including draft legislation of GST, safeguards for fiscal autonomy and special provisions of the State but regretted that this didn't happen. Therefore, he added, there was no fun to attend the meeting as there was nothing new to discuss. National Panthers Party member Harshdev Singh, former Minister said he has also conveyed his view point on the GST to the Finance Minister in writing. The NPP has supported implementation of the Act in the State. An official handout said:- At the onset, on the request of the chair, the meeting observed two-minute silence as mark of respect for DySP Mohammad Ayub Pandith who was lynched to death near Jamia Masjid Srinagar during Shab-e-Qadr. The meeting held threadbare discussions over the legal, legislative, financial and economic aspects of the GST regime with the Chairman explaining in detail the nuances of the new tax regime. There was a general consensus in the meeting that non-implementation of GST regime would trigger economic and financial chaos in the State with the inter-state trade vis-a-vis J&K taking a big hit. The meeting, at the same time, called for allaying the apprehensions and misconceptions that have been passed on to the people for political expediencies. Speaking at the conclusion of the meeting, Muzaffar Hussain Beigh said that there was unanimity in the forum on either of the three paths to be followed on GST which include taking further time to build wider political consensus, taking the matter to the Legislature and allowing the State Cabinet to take a call on the issue in light of JK's special Constitutional position. This is the second attempt by the Government to evolve consensus over GST implementation in the state. Earlier, an All Party Meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti was convened on the issue on June 13.

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