West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Tuesday, threw a lifeline to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill by making it clear that she will stand by it in its current form.
Calling it a “positive tax proposal”, she instructed Amit Mitra, State Finance Minister and Chairman of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers on GST, to ensure passage of the Bill “soon”.
Speaking at a felicitation ceremony organised by the various Chambers of Commerce, Banerjee told Mitra: “GST is long pending. Within the next two meetings, ensure its passage. Build a consensus and do it.” The BJP-led government had originally planned to pass the GST Bill in Parliament in April, converting 29 States into a single market. But the deadline was missed as the Bill failed to clear the Rajya Sabha.
Opposition to the Bill has come primarily from the Congress, which has sought a cap on the rate of goods and services tax, removal of the proposed levy on inter-State trade, and the establishment of an independent dispute resolution mechanism. The Congress had first proposed the GST in 2006.
"Too many discussions have taken place on GST. A meeting is scheduled soon. Now ensure its passage. Do not delay it,” Banerjee said.
Sources said the Trinamool Congress had sought from the Centre a guarantee that the States’ revenue losses following GST implementation would be compensated for five years.
Banerjee emphasised that her party is against the BJP-led government at the Centre and “will continue to oppose it (the BJP) politically.” “I am opposing the BJP government politically. But I assure you, I will be the first to stand (up) for pro-people policies like the GST,” she said.
Explaining her stand, the Chief Minister pointed out that a “one-tax formula will work for industry”. “You cannot have multiple taxes. (GST) is a positive proposal,” she added.