New Delhi: Mega reform Goods and Services Tax (GST) was brought to launch with unprecedented consensus building by the government among political parties, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today, adding that the opposition must now "display broad shoulders and own up to this decision".
Mr Jaitley was commenting on the boycott announced by the Congress and other opposition parties of Friday's midnight launch of GST. He called then "symbolic boycotts" and said 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. 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," the minister said.
The government, Mr Jaitley said, "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 said he was sure it would be of benefit to both economy and the country.
The Congress confirmed this evening what had been a matter of speculation for several days. It fielded top leaders to say that it was boycotting the event because it did not want to be party to "such a tamasha (drama), publicity gimmick".
"We won't be party to publicity for a mere tax policy," said senior party leader Anand Sharma. The Congress has also objected to the plan for PM Modi to launch GST, saying President Pranab Mukherjee will be present and so should do the honours.
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced her Trinamool Congress's boycott in a Facebook post. Parties like the Left, Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and Tamil Nadu party DMK are also set to stay away.