Gujarat polls not a referendum on implementation of GST: Derek O'Brien

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O'Brien. (File Photo: PTI)

Trinamool Congress leader

says that Gujarat assembly elections should not be seen as a referendum on the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST).

O'Brien, the national spokesperson of Trinamool Congress and its leader in the Rajya Sabha, also said Prime Minister Narendra Modi was playing to "Gujarati pride" in next month's Gujarat assembly poll and not focusing on development.

"Why should any election be a referendum? This is the home player playing in his home state. 'I am one of you, how can you insult me' - so now you are playing to Gujarati pride. Come and play on development, come and answer the question on jobs, under-performance, demonetisation, GST and economy, O'Brien told IANS in an interview.

He was asked if the assembly poll in Gujarat, the first assembly election being held after the GST was rolled out on July 1, should be seen as a referendum on the way it had been implemented.

The opposition has been accusing the government of flawed implementation of GST. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi has consistently raked up the issue in his campaign in Gujarat, referring to it as "Gabbar Singh Tax."

Following perception about unease among small traders over some of the stipulations concerning GST, the Modi government has eased filing norms. Decisions have also been taken to reduce the rate on 50 items of mass consumption from 28 per cent to 18 per cent besides providing relief to exporters.

O'Brien's first political book 'Inside Parliament: Views From The Front Row', which was released last week, has a chapter on GST titled 'Far From a good and simple tax."

The book says that in countries like Germany and Japan, businesses were given at least one year of trial and adjustments before transitioning to a new tax system.

"In India, the prime minister and his BJP ministers learn on the job and they want the rest of the country to learn as they go along," it says.

On the GST roll-back, the book says, "We noted with great amusement the 'khakra special' GST rollback announced weeks before the Gujarat elections."

Asked about the outcome of Gujarat elections, O'Brien said it has to be as to be seen in the context of results of 2014 Lok Sabha polls in the state where BJP secured about 60 per cent votes and Congress about 33 per cent.

"The 2017 election has to be judged on that," he said.

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