Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that the decision to launch the country's biggest reform -- Goods and Services Tax (GST) -- was taken after holding discussions with all political parties and that the Opposition cannot alienate itself from it now.
Jaitley added that the Opposition must now "display broad shoulders and own up to this decision." The finance minister's remarks came after Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress (TMC) announced their decision to boycott the launch of the GST reform at the Central Hall in Parliament in New Delhi on June 30 midnight.
"Those who have been party to the consultation and decision-making process must also accept that this is not a decision of the central government but is equally a decision of the 31 states and Union Territories which have been party to this... All state governments and all political parties were party to GST reforms. Now they cannot alienate themselves from it," Jaitley told reporters on Thursday.
Jaitley highlighted that he hoped "every political party will revisit and reconsider its decision and be a party to the launch of the massive reform."
"The GST Council was a perfect experiment in a federal institution, where 31 state governments and the Centre together took hundreds of decisions and each one of them by consensus. There has never been an exercise of this kind of political consultations and political consensus in bringing the GST," the finance minister said.
He added that the government "is committed to the GST as to any other reform process because we believe this is probably the single largest reform in India in 70 years." He also said that he was confident of the tax reform benefitting both the economy and the country.
Congress, which had made a significant contribution in the smooth passage of GST legislation, objected to the June 30 midnight special session of Parliament because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and not President Pranab Mukherjee would launch the landmark tax reform.
"How can the Prime Minister launch GST in the presence of the President? This is not done and acceptable," Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala had said on Wednesday. Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and senior Congress member Ghulam Nabi Azad told reporters that a midnight session has been held at the Central Hall only thrice and always to celebrate the country's independence.
Meanwhile, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu also said that he couldn't understand the reason behind the Opposition boycotting the GST launch.
"Did GST come suddenly? Is it being rolled out without discussion? No. I can't understand the reason (behind the boycott by the Congress). GST is Indian Economy's Tryst with Destiny. It is the biggest reform after independence," Naidu told reporters on Thursday.
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday announced that her party would skip the "the 30th June, 2017 midnight programme at the Parliament House to celebrate GST, as a mark of protest."
Banerjee said in a post on Facebook that the GST was "another epic blunder of the Centre" after demonetisation and that her party was "deeply concerned about GST implementation." She added that the TMC was not against GST but against the "ill-planned" roll-out of the tax regime.