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Modi may chair VAT panel: Mamata effect
May, 12th 2011

Call it the Mamata Banerjee effect if you may. But with exit polls for West Bengal Assembly elections, indicating that Trinamool Congress is set to break the 34-year-old Left Front rule on the state, hectic parleys in New Delhi have already started to find replacements for crucial posts.

Government officials as well as Corporate India are keenly awaiting the election results on Friday to know the fate of the Left Front government and especially its finance minister.

The Union finance ministry, for instance, has begun looking for alternatives to head the Empowered Committee (EC) of State Finance Ministers that is finalising the contours of the proposed goods and services tax (GST). The EC is at present chaired by Asim Dasgupta West Bengal finance minister since 1987, who has been a key intermediary between the Centre and states and also guided the negotiations for value added tax (VAT).

Deliberations on GST have to continue regardless of a change in guard in West Bengal. Negotiations have already suffered due to the Budget and state elections. Now we do not want the panel to be headless for too long. At an informal level, we are looking at other state ministers who can head the panel, a senior official told The Indian Express.

One of the contenders for the post is Sushil Modi, deputy chief minister and finance minister of Bihar, who has been a part of the GST discussions since they were initiated. He is one of the state finance ministers who can chair the EC as he has been a part of deliberations for a long time. Depending on the election results and his willingness, we will put up his name and the EC can then decide, the official said.

On the other hand industry chamber Ficci, whose secretary general Amit Mitra is contesting elections on a Trinamool Congress ticket, is also waiting for Friday the 13th. Depending on the election result, we may announce a new secretary general to replace Dr Mitra on Monday, a source said.

Mitra has been associated with Ficci for over 17 years and is now pitted against Dasgupta at Kharda constituency. He is tipped to become the states finance minister if Trinamool comes to power. Rajiv Kumar, economist and former chief executive of Icrier joined the industry body as its director general. He has been assisting Mitra in areas with a macroeconomic and international trade focus.

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