All-party panel meeting on June 24 to ‘build consensus’

With the J&K government struggling to build a consensus over implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) law in the state, it has convened a meeting of the all-party committee on June 24 to try and find a way forward.

An official said the finance minister Haseeb Drabu on Thursday shot letters to leaders of different political parties, inviting them for the meeting which is scheduled at 4 pm at Nehru Guest House here.

To be chaired by PDP leader and MP Muzaffar Hussain Baig, the consultative group comprises of Abdur Rahim Rather from National Conference; Nizam-ud-Din Bhat from PDP, Sunil Sharma from BJP, Aijaz Khan from Congress, Hakeem Muhammad Yasin (PDF Chairman), Ghulam Hassan Mir (DNP Chief) and independent MLAs Pawan Gupta and Abdur Rashid Sheikh. The government had made a request to Baig to head the committee.

The official said earlier the parliamentary affairs minister AR Veeri had written to the parties asking them to nominate a member each for the all-party committee.

This is the second attempt by the government to evolve a consensus over GST implementation in the state after it couldn’t achieve a breakthrough in the all-party meeting chaired by chief minister Mehbooba Mufti on June 13.

Opposition parties, separatists and Kashmiri businessmen have been saying that the new tax regime would infringe on J&K’s residual political autonomy and its special powers to legislate on financial matters, though the government has reiterated that the state’s political and financial autonomy won’t be impacted.

Amidst the controversy, uncertainty is now looming over implementation of the law in J&K from July 1 when the government of India would be rolling out the GST across different states and union territories (UT).

“It is a very tricky situation. We don’t want to force the law on people but believe in building consensus. The (June 24) meeting is another attempt in that direction,” a senior minister in the PDP-BJP government told Greater Kashmir.

To a question whether J&K could meet July 1 deadline, the minister said there was probability that implementation of the law might get delayed by “some days”.

The official said if the government succeeds to take political parties on board during the upcoming meeting, it would have to again convene the Assembly to debate and pass the draft GST bill. The special session of the Assembly, which was convened last week to debate the issue, was adjourned sine-die in absence of the consensus over the matter among the ruling and opposition parties.

“But the question is that in case of a delay, the state business community won’t be able to continue the trade outside the state as it would be governed by the GST,” said the official.

One of the “contentious issues” raised by the opposition National Conference has been the extension of the 101st amendment of the Constitution of India to J&K. The amendment is meant to implement GST uniformly in all the states of India from July 1.