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Congress to boycott midnight launch of GST in Parliament

Congress has decided not to attend GST midnight session on June 30 in Parliament, party leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said today
India TV Politics Desk New Delhi June 29, 2017 20:54 IST
India TV Politics Desk

After dilly-dallying on its decision on whether to attend the special session at the Central Hall of Parliament which will see the rollout of the ambitious Goods and Services Tax, the Congress party today said it has decided not to attend the midnight session on June 30. “Congress has decided not to attend GST midnight session on June 30 in Parliament,” party leader Satyavrat Chaturvedi said today. All party MPs have also been asked not to attend the event, reports said.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh will also not be at the high table in the Parliament's Central Hall when the GST will be launched at midnight on Friday. The decision came after Congress president Sonia Gandhi met Manmohan Singh along with other leaders today. 

Congress has objected to Prime Minister Narendra Modi launching GST at the special midnight function, pointing out that since President Pranab Mukherjee will be present, it would undermine his status. Congress has also asked the government to consider delaying the launch of GST, citing protests by textile traders and others.

The Congress fielded top leaders Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma to announce that it is boycotting the function. The Congress, they said, had brought in historic reforms but never celebrated them this way. 

Sharma said that the 'country is ill-prepared for roll out of GST'. He said the GST had been conceptualised by the Congress and BJP had stalled its roll out for seven years. 

"We repeatedly cautioned the government that it is not one nation-one tax, neither is it a perfect bill," Sharma said. 

"This midnight spectacle is ignoring harsh realities of society, intolerance, farmers issues which cannot be ignored. Congress cannot be party to such a tamasha (drama), publicity gimmic...we won't be party to publicity for a mere tax policy," Sharma added.

Congress leaders also said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was quiet on incidents of violence in different parts of the country and farmers were committing suicide. The leaders said that the government was seeking to gain publicity for itself by holding a midnight function for GST roll-out. 

Azad said that three midnight functions held in the Central Hall - in 1947, 1972 and 1997 - were all related to Independence.

"Probably for BJP, the years 1947, 1972 and 1997 are not important as they did not take part in the freedom struggle," Azad said. 

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already announced that the Trinamool Congress would boycott the event and there were talks of other opposition parties considering abstaining as well. On Wednesday, Mamata termed the implementation of GST an “epic blunder” on part of the Modi government, after the demonetisation move.

"We are deeply concerned about the GST implementation. After demonetisation, this unnecessary disastrous hurry is another epic blunder of the Centre. We have been for GST from the beginning but are very worried now with the way the central government is going ahead with the implementation," she said in a Facebook post. "Our repeated suggestions to take some more time to properly implement the GST have fallen on deaf ears," she added.

"Our Parliamentary Party has decided not to attend the June 30 midnight programme at Parliament House to celebrate the GST, as a mark of protest," Banerjee said.

Dealt with a major blow following Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar’s snub to its plans of fielding a united front against the Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming presidential elections, opposition parties have been considering a boycott of the government’s midnight launch of the Goods and Services Tax on June 30. The Congress party’s decision not to attend the midnight event appears to be an effort in the same direction.

Ironically, the Congress has vociferously claimed the GST as its own brainchild and chided the NDA for only taking it forward. Sources told PTI that a section of Congress feels that the GST is the party's brainchild and the party should attend the meeting, even though the BJP is seeking to take credit. The Congress’s decision not to attend, however, comes despite several attempts by the government to bring them on board for the launch of the historic tax reform.

The government has planned a mega event to mark the launch of the GST, pegged as the biggest tax reform for India. The event, which will see the new tax regime implemented at the stroke of midnight, will have the President, Vice President, Lok Sabha Speaker and parliamentarians in attendance.

In its bid to ensure a smooth rollout, the government has sent special invitations to former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Deve Gowda. The invite to Singh, Time of India reported yesterday, was delivered personally by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.