Thursday, June 30, 2016

GST Bill and the Level of Misinformation

            Based on what transpired in the so-called exclusive interview of the Prime Minister of India by the Editor of Times Now channel, Mr. Arnab Goswamy, the @PMOIndia tweeted as follows:


With 2,928 Likes and 1,327 retweets the message about the PM’s concern for the poor reached a large audience. Obviously, the readers of this tweet would also blame ‘those in the Rajya sabha’ (read the opposition, especially the Congress party) for their lack of concern for the poor and the GST.

            I was taken aback by this hypocrisy from a man, who is holding the highest office in the Government. I wanted to respond and highlight the hypocrisy. So, I decided to confront both @PMOIndia and the @TimesNow, which had failed to ask any relevant follow up questions on such an assertion by the interviewee.  I devised two Twitter Polls, using direct quotes from Mr. Narendra Modi. Anyone who kept a tag on the developments of GST legislation would know that the quotes are attributable to Mr. Modi. My aim was, therefore, not a poll, but merely highlighting the complete U-turn from the Prime Minister.

            The first poll asked the question:

170 people were kind enough to respond, to this poll. Out of the170 responses 80% were correct in saying that it was Mr. Narendra Modi who had said the words, “Aap ki GST sapna sakaar nahi ho sakta.” Surprisingly, there were another 14% who thought it was Mr. Rahul Gandhi who had said these words. Another 6% attributed the statement to Mr. Manmohan Singh or Mr. Chidambaram who were the architects of GST legislation, in the first place!

            The second poll asked:

This poll received only 56 responses. 75% of those who responded rightly said, it was Mr. Narendra Modi who had resorted to such a negative stand on the GST, even though now he claims not passing of it is such an injustice to the poor of this country! Once again, 21% of the responses attributed the statement to Mr. Rahul Gandhi (remaining 4% saying it was Mr. Chidambaram who said it).

            The poll results made it obvious that there is still a lot of misinformation and misunderstanding on the respective roles played by the Congress and BJP, on the GST issue. The 14% and 21% of the responses claiming it was Mr. Rahul Gandhi who expressed such a negative attitude towards the GST legislation has not cared to look at his and his party’s stand on the issue.

            Mr. Rahul Gandhi is on record that they are ready to cooperate with the government to get the GST Bill passed. He said, ‘Hum yeh nahi chahte hai ki ghareeb log ka upar tax na lage. Our, hum uske upar ek chhath si lagaana chahte hai,” referring to the Congress party’s demand for mentioning a cap on the rates at which tax can be imposed on goods and services. He continued, “Tho yeh faraq hai, magar hum GST lanaa chahte hai, our pass karana chahte hai.”

            Congress party has also made its reservations on the proposed GST BIll clear in their Dissent Note given to the Rajya Sabha’s Select Committee on the GST Bill. They have cited eight specific objections to the latest version of the GST draft Bill (You may refer this post for more details on the objections). These have come down to just three contentious issues, which a responsive government can address in no time. The three remaining issues are a cap on the rate that can be imposed in future, mechanism for dispute resolution between states or states and the Centre, and additional 1% levy by manufacturing states. Modi Govt has not chosen to be responsive to the demands. Instead, the Govt has decided to continue the attitude of confrontation with the opposition and refuse to even introduce the GST Bill in the Rajyasabha.

            I am not sure, when blaming the members of the Rajyasabha, Mr. Modi also meant Mr. Subramanian Swamy, whom he had recently got inducted into the Rajyasabha! Mr. Swamy had tweeted, “As an economist I say GST not worth the time spent to get it passed in RS.” Just because he is an economist, would Mr. Swamy want to continue ‘the injustice to the poor’ forever?

            The Government and Prime Minister can be a bit more sincere and truthful in presenting the facts and views on important matters like Constitutional amendments and tax reforms.

The Congress Party should also introspect on their communication strategy and see why a significant portion of the population (going by the results of these limited polls) continue to believe that it is Rahul Gandhi and Manmohan Singh, who are the stumbling blocks to the introduction of GST!

Note: All the quotes used in this post can be seen and heard in a short video on the subject. I express my thanks to Mr. Gaurav Pandhi, for sharing this video.    

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