New Delhi: In the middle of his address in Parliament's special midnight session to launch the flagship Goods and Services Tax, Union Minister Arun Jaitley took a detour down the memory lane; his chosen companion on this little journey - President Pranab Mukherjee.
Switching from English to Hindi, Mr Jaitley said, "Mr President, this journey started 15 years ago.... (when) the NDA 1 created a committee that gave a historic report..."
Fast forwarding few years, he spoke of the time when the initiative was carried forward by the UPA government, which announced that it would try to implement a single tax for the entire nation by 2006 and following a constitutional amendment, a parliamentary standing committee gave important suggestions.
In his address, the President too, delved into his memory, saying the launch was a "moment of some satisfaction" for him personally. "As the Finance Minister, I had introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill on 22nd March 2011," he said, recalling how he was closely involved in its design and implementation. "I remained confident that GST was a matter of time and it would eventually be implemented," he said. His confidence, he said, stood justified when he signed off on the bill last year as the President.
The GST, which has been dubbed as the biggest tax reform since Independence, was not the result of the efforts of any single party, Mr Jaitley said.
"Every decision in the GST council was taken with a consensus, not a vote," he added, reinforcing the message the party has been sending out since a majority of the opposition parties, including the Congress, announced that they would stay away from the midnight ceremony, which is being attended by nearly a thousand people in the Central Hall of Parliament.
The finance minister has earlier reminded the opposition -- which has cited concerns about the way the government was implementing GST - that it was done only after an unprecedented consensus-building exercise. The opposition, he had added, must now "display broad shoulders and own up to this decision".
Today, underscoring that the GST is an "important achievement for whole country", he said, "The consensus highlights that India can rise above politics in interest of the nation... that India can collectively think and act with maturity for a broader purpose."