Chandigarh, August 19: The Punjab Congress President Mr Partap Singh Bajwa today fully endorsed the line advocated by the party chief Mrs Sonia Gandhi and the vice-president Mr Rahul Gandhi on the issue of GST Bill and the agitation by the party in and outside the Parliament.
In a statement, Mr Bajwa asserted as a true Congressman, he would abide by every decision taken by the party on every issue.
He said it was strange that it was the BJP now championing the GST that had disrupted the Parliament to scuttle its adoption when moved during the UPA regime. Leading the opposition in the empowered committee on GST were the finance ministers of Gujarat (Mr Saurabh Patel) and Madhya Pradesh (Mr Raghavji). Neither Dr Asim Dasgupta (FM, West Bengal) nor Mr Sushil Modi (FM, Bihar), the first and second chairperson of the Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers, could persuade the two states to give up their unreasoned opposition to an important reform.
He maintained the Congress was of the opinion that the GST rates had to be moderate and reasonable so that unfair burden was not imposed on ordinary consumers. The Congress had propose a highest ceiling rate of 18 per cent as a reasonable, moderate and adequate revenue generating rate. Modi government has, however, outrightly rejected this suggestion in the proposed bill increasing it to 25 -27 per cent.
Moreover, proposal in GST Bill of permitting States to levy an additional 1% tax over and above the GST rate not only woukld lead to market distortion but would be an extra burden as also embargo on movement of goods from one State to the other. It defeats the very purpose and foundation of free trade envisaged under GST. For example, if goods were to move from Gujarat to West Bengal and with each State imposing 1% tax, cost of goods over and above the GST rate would be astronomical defeating the very purpose of GST.
Bajwa said the crucial word in GST Bill is ‘supply/ies’, which is being used in Clauses 9 and 18 without being defined. Congress Party had advocated to amend these clauses to clarify that goods moving from one unit to another in different States with common ownership or between two or more firms corroborating in units located in different States for manufacture of the same end product must be excluded from the term ‘supply/ies’. This is the only way to facilitate trade across the States. Unfortunately, even this suggestion has been rejected.
Moreover, the basic purpose of GST is to establish a common market for the whole country. That being so, Congress Party believes that to exclude products like tobacco, alcohol and electricity supply out of the purview of GST defeats the very purpose of GST as these three by themselves contribute to approximately 1/4th of the total taxation basket. In case, 25% to 30% of the market is to be kept out of applicability of GST, how would GST then become feasible and implementable?
He said lastly, States being the biggest contributors are being given minimal role defeating Mr Narendra Modi’s promise of strengthening federalism. Congress Party has advocated that States must have 75% share in GST Council with Centre’s share being the remaining 25%.