With West Bengal finance minister, Asim Dasgupta losing the election from Khardah, speculation is rife that -Ficci secretary-general Amit Mitra – may be the man who could drive political consensus on the long-delayed goods and services tax (GST).
Asim Dasgupta , who played the lead role in finalising the GST structure, will not be there in the last leg of GST roll out. Asim Dasgupta was the driving force in the empowered committee…A replacement will have to be found to build consensus among states on GST,” said Madhya Pradesh finance minister Raghavji.
In the last four years, Dasgupta has deftly handled the contentious legislation aimed at redrawing the taxing powers of the centre and states. According to finance ministry officials, Dasgupta’s exit would not introduce an element of uncertainty over the timeline for the introduction of GST.
The GST seeks to replace a slew of indirect taxes levied by states and the centre with a single levy. Dasgupta, the finance minister in the Left government, which had ruled West Bengal for the past 34 years, heads the empowered committee of state FMs that negotiates with the centre on key financial issues.
The GST structure he helped finalise was acceptable to a majority of the states and industry. So now the choice of person who heads the empowered committee will be crucial considering that BJPruled states have not yet endorsed the reforms fully. The government has already moved a bill to make constitutional changes necessary to facilitate the rollout of this reform. It needs the support of the opposition to get the bill passed not only in the Lok Sabha but also in state assemblies.
The name of Bihar deputy chief minister and finance minister Sushil Modi, known for his reasonable and mild approach, is doing the rounds in the North Block, which houses the Union finance ministry. Modi is also seen as acceptable since the main opposition to the GST is coming from BJP. Of the seven BJP-ruled states, Gujarat had initially agreed to GST, but Narendra Modi was not so enthusiastic after federal investigators gunned for former minister Amit Shah over a fake encounter case.