New Delhi: Taking credit for the Centre’s decision to reduce the GST rates on over 200 items, the Congress credited its vice-president Rahul Gandhi for mounting pressure on the BJP-led Central government and forcing a rethink on the GST.
The party claimed the government was forced to overhaul the GST rates due to the “huge response” that Mr Gandhi’s campaign had been receiving in poll-bound Gujarat.
Even as Mr Gandhi announced that his party, on winning the 2019 elections, will reduce GST rate to one slab of 18 per cent, former finance minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram took pot shots at the government, saying that upcoming elections in Gujarat have done what Parliament and common sense could not.
Mr Chidambaram tweeted, “Thank you Gujarat. Your elections did what Parliament and common sense could not do.”
In a series of tweets, Mr Chidambaram said that the government had learned its lesson belatedly. “Congress is vindicated. I am vindicated. The merit of capping GST at 18% is now recognised,” he said.
The Government on Friday had, after a marathon meeting of the GST Council in Guwahati, decided that only 50 items will remain in the highest tax slab of 28 per cent and 178 others from this category will be moved to the 18 per cent bracket from November 15.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Friday said that the recommendations made by the GST Council will further benefit the people and add strength to the tax regime.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Gujarat Ashok Gehlot said that the GST Council decided to cut the tax rates due to the pressure mounted by Mr Gandhi.
Leading the charge against the government on GST, Mr Gandhi said during the Gujarat campaign that the Congress will continue to fight for an 18 per cent cap on the highest GST slab instead of the current 28 per cent, and vowed that the party would get the job done “if the ruling BJP doesn’t”.
He also reiterated that India needed a simple tax and not the “Gabbar Singh Tax”, as he has been describing the tax, to target the Modi government.
Gujarat, the home state of Mr Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, has been under the BJP’s rule for over two decades and the Congress, buoyed by support from Patidar and OBC leaders, has launched an aggressive campaign against the ruling party in the state.
Congress leaders, particularly Mr Gandhi, have made the GST and demonetisation as key issues of their campaign.
Mr Gehlot claimed the GST Council brought about the changes in tax rates with an eye on votes in Gujarat. The state goes to poll in two phases on December 9 and December 14.
Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala termed the GST Council’s move “installment-based tinkering” which he said underscored the “adhocism” of the BJP-led central government.
Accusing finance minister Arun Jaitley of “creating havoc”, Mr Surjewala said that the Congress was determined to make the tax regime “flawless”.