November 8, 2016, and July 1, 2017, will forever be etched in history as the two most important dates in current Indian polity. The decision to implement demonetisation and Goods and Services Tax (GST) were taken on above mentioned dates and the jury is still out on whether either of the decisions paid off or not. Prime Minister Narendra Modi got a decisive mandate in 2014 to transform India and after three and a half years, Indian economy is not booming and questions are raised over the workings of the current dispensation.
The recent announcement by GST council of excluding 178 items from the 28 percent slab and clubbing it with 18 percent has raised many questions and this is not the first case of GST council headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley doing a 360 degree somersault and ever since the inception of GST on July 1, 2017, there have been so many changes that it is hard to keep a track of it and it shows finance ministry in very poor light. PM Modi and Jaitley were very gung-ho about GST and its benefits and had said that GST stands for Good and Simple Tax, but worryingly for the government according to opposition leader Rahul Gandhi it has turned into Gabbar Singh Tax and his judgement is not off the mark. The constant flip-flops and changes have left the common man confused and every sector is facing trouble because of hastily approved GST and the country is still reeling from the effects of the ill-advised demonetisation and the future is not looking very bright.
The current regime was very vociferous in targeting the previous dispensation (Congress-ruled UPA, 2004-14) for corruption, policy paralysis, ineptness, weak leadership and had said that if they come to power Indian economy will be back on track and they will remedy the situation pretty quickly. The crux of the problem with GST starts with it having four slabs (5, 12, 18, and 28) and the government is still not sure how to implement their pet project effectively. GST has ruined traders, small and medium business and has proved counterproductive in many areas and finance minister has been a mute spectator all this while and the perception is that Jaitley is confused or is just going through the motions.
India prides itself on being a democracy and in any democratic set up you should and must have accountability. In private sector, if the company is making losses then the CEO must take responsibility and has to resign for the betterment of organisation. PM Modi had made tall promises but the ground reality is very stark and Indian economy is going through a very rough patch. This government is expert in propaganda and marketing, but they cannot hide from the fact that jobs are not being created, GDP rate is down and the double blow of GST and demonetization has been a big blunder.
GST is a wonderful concept, but the implementation and execution has been very shoddy and the buck stops with the finance ministry and some steps has to be taken to revive the economy. Narendra Modi is seen as a leader who is ruthless and uncompromising when it comes to taking decisions and now is the time to act. Jaitley over the past three-and-a-half years has not been able to revive and redeem the economy and if PM Modi wants to walk the talk then it’s time he asks Arun Jaitley to step down as finance minister to get the economy back on track and the dream of New India is in serious tatters ahead of next general elections.
Post Script: BJP, which won 282 seats in 2014 Lok Sabha elections had appointed Arun Jaitley as finance minister from Rajya Sabha. Jaitley had fought the general election against Congress veteran Captain Amarinder Singh and lost the mandate. Just an observation!