PM Modi while detailing how GST would help fight corruption and black money, also had reassuring words for small traders jittery about being drawn into the tax net and complicated processes. GST, he said, was really a Good and Simple Tax which would just take a little getting used to like every new pair of spectacles. To everyone else including the poor, PM Modi pitched the GST as a tool to deliver value to the poor. If the tax base expanded horizontally, the country would grow vertically, he said.
In another part of his speech, he delivered a rejoinder to the Congress which had boycotted the midnight launch. One of the reasons cited was that the event was being held in central hall at midnight. The previous three occasions when a similar event was held celebrated India's Independence.
"Today, after years, for a new economy, give new power to our federalism - there can be no better place than this," PM Modi said to applause. "We are deciding India's future," he said in a speech after recounting some of the historic events that the central hall had witnessed including the first meeting of the constituent assembly.
PM Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley also didn't take credit for making GST a reality though it had been in the works for more than decade. Instead, PM Modi said, the credit went to all political parties, previous central governments and the states that had helped build consensus over the tax regime.
To West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's jibe that GST would bring back "inspector raj", PM Modi said references of "tax terrorism" and "inspector raj" weren't new in India. the message was that rather than increasing, GST's online interface would end these sources of harassment. "Because everything can be technologically traced... It ends the grey are completely," he said.