Several leading opposition parties attended the GST launch event held in the central hall of Parliament on Friday night despite the efforts by the principal opposition party Congress to persuade them to boycott the event. Former Prime Minister Deve Gowda, NCP chief Sharad Pawar, Samajwadi Party, BSP, BJD, Kerala Congress (M) were among the opposition parties that participated in the event.
JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda attended the programme, sharing the dais with President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
The JD(S) criticised the Congress for not consulting it before taking the decision to boycott the function.
According to a PTI report, Gowda was requested by a senior party leader not to attend the programme but he did not heed to it.
However, despite finance minister Arun Jaitley’s appeal, leaders of principal opposition party Congress, Left parties, All India Trinmool Congress, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD, Farooq Abdulla led National Conference did not attend the government function organised at central hall of the parliament.
The fractures in the oppostion unity over the issue of attending GST launch event emerged barely a week after 17 parties joined hands to field Meira Kumar as the presidential candidate of leading opposition parties.
In a repeat of its policy of changing the party’s stand after public announcements, Samajwadi Party did a U-turn in this matter also and attended the midnight event. Ram Gopal Yadav, Samajwadi Party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Rajya Sabha member Naresh Agarwal, Lok Sabha MP Akshay Yadav were present on the occasion.
Earlier, Samajwadi Party had also backed off from its decision to support NDA’s presidential candidate Ram Nath Kovind after publicly expressing support for him.
During the event, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav felt uneasy and were taken out of the central hall by his party colleagues, however, after sometime he returned to the hall and attended the full function.
After the event, Ram Gopal Yadav said: “When we supported the bill in Parliament, then why would we not attend this function to launch GST? Both the BJP and the Congress had also supported the passage of the bill.”
BSP chief Mayawati did not turn up for the event, however, the party was represented by two of its Rajya Sabha MPs – Veer Singh and Rajaram.
NCP chief Sharad Pawar, party colleague and former civil aviation minister Prafull Patel and the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Majeed Memon, Lok Sabha MP Tariq Anwar attended the midnight event.
Anwar said his party was attending the GST launch as it had supported the legislation on ushering in the new indirect tax regime in the country.
“We agree with the Congress to an extent, but we supported the legislation when it was introduced (in Parliament and state assemblies). The party has hence decided to attend the midnight meeting,” he said.
KM Mani, president of Kerala Congress (M), his son and Lok Sabha MP Jose K Mani were present on the occasion. Former Kerala finance minister KM Mani had worked as the head of the empowered committee of state finance ministers to evolve consensus for a unified common goods and service tax.
On behalf of JD(U), its Bihar unit chief and Rajya Sabha member Vashisht Narain Singh attended the event.
The Congress, however, downplayed the cracks within the opposition ranks, terming it as a “one-off” development.
Former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi said JD(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar always favoured GST and never opposed it.
He said as Bihar is a consuming state, it will benefit from this landmark tax.
“The big difference between the Congress and the BJP is that the former finance minister P Chidambaram did only lip service, while our finance minister spoke to every chief minister, especially those from opposition parties to address their concerns and build a consensus,” he said.
The function was attended by the union ministers, MPs as well as chief ministers and finance ministers of several states.
BJP chief Amit Shah, party stalwart L K Advani and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha were among the other prominent political leaders who attended the function.