Prime Minister Narendra Modi today slammed Congress president Rahul Gandhi for questioning the Goods and Services Tax (GST) despite the government rolling it out after "arriving at a consensus" with all political parties in the country.
"The GST process has been going on ever since Pranab Mukherjee was the country's Finance Minister," PM Modi said in an interview with news agency ANI. "What was the tax rate in the country before the GST? 30-40% tax. And hidden tax. Repeated tax. GST has simplified all this. As many as 500 items that once incurred high taxes now come with zero tax."
The Prime Minister went on to highlight how tax rates for 1,200-1,250 items of daily use had been lowered under the new system. "Tax rates were brought down to 18% for some, to 12-5% for others and even 0% for certain items. We did this after acquiring public feedback. There was dialogue. Decisions are taken in the GST Council in agreement with all the stakeholders concerned. It was unanimously passed in parliament, so why are they abusing their own party leaders and governments now?" he asked, adding that the "Congress' words reflect its thoughts".
Mr Gandhi and his party colleagues have often targeted the GST brought by the NDA government, quipping that the abbreviation actually stands for "Gabbar Singh Tax" and "Grand Stupid Thought". PM Modi said it was unfortunate that the opposition was creating a political hue and cry over a new system that's bound to transform the country.
The Prime Minister said that although some small traders faced inconvenience due to the GST, the government effectively addressed their problems. "The government's responsibility is to be sensitive to people's concerns. The matter was referred to the GST Council and we collectively decided how to simplify it," he said. "Despite all the diversities of this big country, there is still scope for improvement. We will continue to make changes."
PM Modi claimed that it was the government's responsibility to work for the middle class, and there was nothing political about it. "Those from the middle class never live on others' mercy. They live with dignity and make immense contributions towards running our country. If the lower class is given something, the same magnanimity should also be extended to the middle class. We have to think about the middle class, and this is not just about seeking votes," he added.
He then went on to cite how the middle class has been helped by the drop in inflation, besides schemes brought out by the government.
The Prime Minister also spoke on other subjects, such as demonetisation, mob killings, the Ram temple at Ayodhya, triple talaq and cross-border surgical strikes during the interview.
(With inputs from ANI)