Even though the current GST is not an ideal one, this is what has emerged as the best bet for now. There is no reason for former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi to avoid sharing the GST launch moment with prime minister Narendra Modi in Parliament on July 1.
Reforms like the goods and services tax (GST) can’t be introduced and run successfully without a larger support of the political system. There is no reason why it should not be there on July 1 when the tax system comes to force, especially when it was initiated by the Congress party led UPA government and is being implemented by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led NDA government. While it is the persistence of prime minister Narendra Modi which is responsible for the success in clearing the parliamentary bottlenecks for implementing GST — he would not have succeeded in this exercise without the support of the opposition parties — even though that has meant the current GST remains short of an ideal GST with high and multiple rates, besides items like alcohol for human consumption and petroleum products remaining out of its ambit.
But, with the GST laws in place now and the GST Council, which is a joint body of the states and the Centre, already finalising the framework, any political party, including the Congress, not participating in the midnight meeting in Parliament to announce the launch of GST, to show its reservations on any issue, will not be prudent. In fact, former prime minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi, even West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee along with the leaders of the left parties, must accompany president Pranab Mukherjee and PM Modi when one of the biggest tax reform in the country is ushered in as the whole world would be watching that moment. It will show that when it comes to economic reforms, India is one, and not fractured.
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PM Modi has shown this maturity by adopting the UPA game-changer Aadhaar in a big way, despite the fact that almost everybody thought that it will be junked by the NDA government after the UPA unsuccessfully projected it to be a platform that will change the face of subsidies and entitlement payment in India. GST is another reform measure that was initiated during the tenure of the previous government, but it was languishing, and at one point of time appeared to have got almost killed because of the NDA’s lack of majority in the Rajya Sabha, before PM Modi decided to muster the support of the opposition parties by convincing them and taking their views on board.
Considering the enormity of the whole GST exercise, there is bound to be glitches and problems related to implementation, but that will be dealt with by the GST council, and any unnecessary political opposition to the GST at this juncture will only be detrimental to the new tax system. Instead of creating problems, all the political parties must help the GST Council in fine-tuning the GST structure and administration going ahead. Political parties that support reforms are getting better response from the voters and sheer populism has no more remained a tool for electoral success – opposing GST, therefore, is both bad economics and also politics.