Eight regional parties hold joint protest on delayed GST payouts

Principal Opposition party Congress not invited “as many of them not comfortable sharing stage with it”

Eight non-Congress regional parties held a joint protest in the Parliament House premises on Thursday demanding that the GST dues that the Centre owes to the States should be given at the earliest. Principal Opposition party Congress, which is ruling in four States, was not invited to the protest by the regional parties.

The Congress is in alliance with DMK, NCP, Shiv Sena and RJD in States.

Parliamentarians from Trinamool Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazgham, Telangana Rashtriya Samithi, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Nationalist Congress Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and Shiv Sena participated in the protest.

The move comes ahead of a scheduled debate on the GST in the Rajya Sabha that the government had agreed upon on the insistence of the Opposition parties in an informal meeting chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday evening.

At a meeting of the GST Council held on August 27, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had acknowledged that the States are likely to face a GST revenue gap of ₹3 lakh crore this year, as the economy may contract due to COVID-19 which she termed an unforeseen “act of God”. The States were asked to borrow to meet the shortfall. So far, five State governments have rejected the Centre’s suggestion.

AAP Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh said all those who participated in the protest will have more joint meetings in the next few days to scale it up. DMK MP Tiruchi Siva said the States are only asking for their dues. “The government cited COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse. Can they explain, if everything was fine, then why were the GST payouts delayed pre-COVID also,” Mr. Siva asked.

Asked why the Congress was not invited, sources said many political parties like the TRS and the AAP were not comfortable sharing the stage with the Congress. Delhi CM and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal and Telangana CM and TRS leader K. Chandrashekar Rao were not invited to a Chief Ministers’ meeting organised by Congress president Sonia Gandhi recently.

“They do and we follow is no longer acceptable. It is now we do and if you want, you may follow,” TMC Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien said.

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