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BJP determined to stall Goods and Services Tax implementation
May, 11th 2011

The Goods and Services Tax , or GST, bill appears to be caught in political wrangling between the ruling United Progressive Alliance and the main Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party.

With the bitterness growing, BJP is in no mood to play ball with the government, which it alleges is discriminating against BJP-ruled states and 'misusing' central agencies like the Central Bureau of Investigation to target them.

The reservation within BJP to back GST was reflected at a meeting of its chief ministers here, where it was decided to take on the UPA for "intimidating" and "trying to destabilise" their state governments. The chief ministers also said governors in their states were acting like "political agents" of the UPA government and keeping bills pending "for years together."

The party, which had initiated the GST idea to ensure a uniform tax regime, has turned its back on it blaming the government for failing in efforts to build consensus. "We had initiated the whole idea but the government is not taking on board state governments," BJP's chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the two-day conclave.

Of the seven BJP-ruled states, Gujarat had agreed initially to GST, but Chief Minister Narendra Modi was not so enthusiastic after CBI gunned for former state minister Amit Shah over a fake encounter case. Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand opposed GST on grounds that that they may not gain from it as they are high-producing but low-consuming states. The GST bill requires the nod of assemblies besides the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

At the chief ministers' conference, Modi said the Centre was discriminating against BJP-ruled states by not practising financial impartiality and by misusing investigating agencies like CBI as a political weapon. Rallying behind him, senior BJP leader LK Advani said in his valedictory address that besides "assaulting" the federal structure, the government was trying to destabilise democratically-elected governments through CBI and other agencies.

This also found a mention in the resolution adopted at the end of the conclave. It resolved to fight "against the policy of discrimination against BJP-ruled states as well as misuse of central agencies to harass and intimidate several opposition ruled states, adopted by the UPA government."

The conclave also evolved a consensus on electoral reforms aimed at curbing the role of money power and seeking a debate in Parliament on recommendations of the Sarkaria Commission , which has set guidelines on role of governors. The party also decided to establish the practice of declaring the figures of GDP and social indicators of states ruled by it.

It decided to put in place an in-house mechanism for reviewing the performance of BJP governments. On allegations of corruption against its leaders in Punjab and Karnataka, BJP retaliated by pointing fingers at political rivals. In the case of Punjab, Prasad said "it's a copy book case of abuse of CBI."

On Karnataka Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, he said JD(S) leader H D Kumaraswamy who has been making allegations against the BJP leader, had recommended 47 iron ore mining leases, of which 22 were proposed after his government was reduced to a minority.

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