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Ill-fated GST looks to Modi to sail through
July, 18th 2011

After initial vacuum, the empowered committee of state finance ministers on Goods and Services Tax (GST) is all set to select Bihar Finance Minister Sushil Modi as its chairman tomorrow. The committee will provide a much-needed relief to the Centre in bringing a consensus on rolling out GST.

It is almost certain that Modi will be selected through a consensus, since he has agreed to head the committee, which has so far failed to evolve unanimity on GST, people close to the development said.

However, they added it would be almost impossible to roll out GST from April 1, 2012, unlike earlier expectations.

GST, which will replace excise duty and service tax at the Centres end and Value Added Tax (VAT) at the states levels, has already missed two deadlines.

The empowered group is meeting for the first time tomorrow after its former chairman Asim Dasgupta and lost elections to the West Bengal assembly in May.

Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders told Business Standard that the partys central leadership has given clearance to Modis name to head the committee. Mainly BJP-ruled states along with Uttar Pradesh are opposing GST, proposed by the Centre in its current form. Unlike VAT, GST has to be imposed across the country as there is a concept of inter-state GST as well. VAT came into existence in 2005, even as some states did not embrace it then.

Modi was earlier offered the post by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee as well, but he had cited his preoccupation with governance in Bihar as the reason for non-acceptance. Modi is also deputy chief minister of Bihar.

This time, he decided to accept after requests from many state finance ministers and the Union finance ministry again.

This would come as a big respite to the Centre, which is facing opposition from the BJP over the GST rollout.

Though Kerala Finance Minister K M Mani has also evinced interest, the tide has already turned in favour of Modi. It should be noted here that the finance ministry does not have a role in selecting the empowered committees chairman, unlike during NDAs time. Dasgupta was appointed as the first chairman of the committee by then finance minister Yashwant Sinha.

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