Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir’s two main opposition parties, National Conference (NC) and Congress, pulled out from the all-party meet held on Saturday to discuss the Goods and Services Tax (GST), even as other parties could not strike a consensus with the government on the issue.
The two main parties said they boycotted the meet since the government had not provided them with a blueprint of the draft legislation of the GST to be implemented in the state.
“We did not participate in the meet since the government has told us that they would provide us the draft of the GST before calling all-party deliberations,” NC general secretary Ali Mohammad Sagar told Kashmir Reader. “They have promised that they will take our point of view as well. But neither draft nor our concerns were addressed. So we pulled out.”
Similarly, senior Congress leader GN Monga too put forward the same reasons for not appearing at the all-party meet.
“They did not provide us the GST papers. Finance minister Haseeb Drabu was directed by the chief minister to provide us papers and take our concerns. Nothing of the sort happened that we were promised. Hence we did not participate in the meet,” the Congress leader said.
The opposition parties have reiterated that the GST, if implemented in its present form, would compromise the state’s fiscal autonomy and Article 370.
The all-party meet was chaired by PDP leader Muzaffar Hussein Beigh and was attended by leaders of opposition parties including Awami Itehad Party chairman Engineer Rashid, Democratic Freedom Party leader Ghulam Hassan Mir, Hakim Mohammad Yaseen of the Peoples Democratic Front, CPI leader MY Tarigami and members of the BJP and the PDP.
Talking to Kashmir Reader, Engineer Rashid confirmed that no consensus could be reached between the government and the opposition parties on GST.
“We told Beigh that the implementation of GST was straightaway infiltration of autonomy. We explained our reservations vis-a-vis GST and impressed upon the government the need to form a Jammu and Kashmir-centric GST. I also put forward the point that Hurriyat’s concern should be taken into account,” Rashid said.
“Beigh said that he will inform the cabinet about the reservations of the opposition and will accordingly take the next step. We could not strike a consensus. So the meeting ended inconclusively,” he added.
Rashid said that Beigh was also told the GST should be discussed in the next Assembly session so that everybody is taken along.
“Most probably there would be another all-party meet on GST,” Rashid said. Ghulam Hassan Mir said nothing could be derived out of the meeting since the NC and Congress were absent.
“We told the government that there should be broader consensus on the GST. The NC and Congress should be called and taken along. Otherwise, we told them, it is a futile exercise,” Mir said.
BJP leader and deputy chief minister Nirmal Singh had earlier said that the GST will be implemented in its present form on July 1. If not, he said, the BJP will pull out of the government.
Minister of state for finance Ajay Nanda said the government had called an all-party meet to discuss the GST with the opposition parties.
“We have discussed how to implement the GST,” Nanda said. “We have to implement the GST. There is no other way.”
Asked whether GST will be implemented in the same manner or in modified form, the minister said, “It will be discussed”.
On NC and PDP pulling out of the all-party meeting, Nanda said, “The parties will pull out since they want to spoil everything. We will see during the opposition meets what will come out.”