GST: Naidu charges Cong with adopting double standards

Chennai: Claiming a “massive support” for the “very very simple” Goods and Services Tax (GST) Union minister M Venkaiah Naidu accused the Congress of “adopting double standards” on the new tax regime.

He also assured that any doubts on the new taxation regime could be addressed, including discussing it in GST Council.

“There is massive support for GST and people are happy,” Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Naidu said in his address at a GST conference here.

“Because the other day (US President) Donald Trump acknowledged it and told (Prime Minister Narendra) Modi you are taking the country on the right path with regard to the economy,” Naidu said.

GST was a “consensus-based” tax law and “it all started in 2003 during the A B Vajpayee government” before being discussed in the Manmohan Singh regime and finally rolled out now under the NDA dispensation headed by Modi, he said.

“Chidambaram had introduced the GST and Pranab Mukherjee (both as Finance Ministers in UPA) also made some changes and then finally it was discussed by the standing committee of Parliament,” before being passed later, he said.

The minister denied that GST was “forced” on states and said consultations were held for 17 years and states, including Jammu and Kashmir, had approved it.

“So the credit goes to all political parties and the responsibility is also there with all political parties. And now unfortunately some people like Congress party … They don’t know whether they are supporting GST or opposing it,” he said.

He said Congress initially said GST was “our initiative” and had accused BJP of delaying it and “now they are saying why there was haste and why not delay for some more time.”

Congress leader Veerappa Moily had spoken in Parliament of a “Rs 12 lakh crore loss due to the delay” in the rollout of GST even as Chidambaram had backed the bill saying it was introduced by his party, Naidu said.

Chidambaram had earlier said “there was nothing called perfect,” vis-a-vis GST, but was calling the present bill “imperfect,” he said.

“Now this is nothing but adopting double standards and taking political positions. This country has accepted GST overwhelmingly. People are in favour of it. I am happy that most of the state governments, including Tamil Nadu, are making efforts to implement GST,” Naidu said.

Any initial problem in the “transformation” can be discussed and resolved through the GST Council, he said.

On demands from some quarters to lower the rates, he said “Nothing is perfect, nothing is final. Definitely we can make changes,” he added.

To back his statement, he said that the 18th meeting of the GST Council had lowered the tax rate on fertilisers, revising the rate arrived upon at its previous meeting.

“There is problem for regional cinema, Tamil Nadu (theatres) also agitated, there are problems for textile and beedi (industries). Everybody will be asking for lower slabs,” he said.

But these things were not unsurmountable and could be discussed and disposed of by the GST council ‘which is dynamic’ and which would meet from time to time, he said, adding that doubts on GST were also being addressed.

Ministers were fanning out across the country even as 600 training classes had been held for officers, he said.

Further, the GST Council with representatives from both the Centre and states, would discuss various issues, he said.

Whatever decisions the GST council has to take has to be unanimous or by consensus or by two third majority, he said.

“GST is a very very simple legislation and the prime minister doesn’t want any discretion to be given to anybody, whether an officer or minister,” he said.

“He wants everything to be transparent, everybody to be (held) accountable. If you do discretion, then you will be hearing stories like 2G, 3G and or some other Gs. Some G will come,” he said alluding to the 2G spectrum allocation scam.

Modi has launched a “war” against corruption, black money and tax evasion, Naidu said.

“At the end of the day he wants the country, the common people and the honest tax payer to be strengthened. He wants the poor people to benefit,” he said.

On the presidential polls, he said NDA nominee Ramnath Kovind would win by a “comfortable margin” since most political parties across the country were supporting him.

“The Congress candidate (Meira Kumar) says vote as per conscience. If they vote as conscience, they (MPs and MLAs) wont vote for Congress because it (earlier) put up Sanjeeva Reddy officially and defeated him by conscience vote,” he said.

He took a swipe at Congress for raising issues like democracy and inclusive growth in light of the Presidential polls, saying they “murdered” democracy by imposing Emergency.

Even the President had no “independent powers except interpreting the Constitution,” he added.

Congress was “unnecessarily diverting attention and trying to score brownie political points,” he said, adding “this is not going to help.”

To a question he said there was “no such proposal” to dissolve the Tamil Nadu government post Presidential polls and asserted that the Centre “will never misuse Article 356” of the Constitution.

On the public spat between Puducherry Lt Governor Kiran Bedi and Chief Minister V Narayansamy, Naidu said it was better to avoid controversies and sit and discuss the issues.

“LG is duty bound to go by the Constitution. And the chief minister is duty bound by the mandate of the people. So they should work together. Making allegations outside is not good,” he said.