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Ready to support GST if recommendations accepted: Congress

PTI     May 11, 2016

Congress on Wednesday claimed in the Rajya Sabha that the "real opposition" to the long-pending GST bill was coming from within the government and that the main opposition was ready to give full support to it provided its three key recommendations are accepted.

Congress leader Jairam Ramesh also questioned the credibility of the current GDP growth figure of 7.6 per cent, claiming that nobody believes these numbers as they are "suspicious".

The former minister asked the government to come out with "credible" GDP figures and suggesed setting up a committee under the chairmanship of BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

He also raked up the issue of alleged irregularities by Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC) in its KG basin gas project and demanded a probe into it, while asking the government not be selective in investigating NPA cases.

Participating in a debate on the Finance Bill, Ramesh harped on '3 Gs' -- GST, GDP and Gas (of GSPC).

The Congress member insisted that his party wants GST and that it was ready to give full support to the government if its three suggestions are incorporated in the bill.

"We have three suggestions. One is setting up of independent committee to adjudicate disputes, elimination of one per cent tax and introduction of capping ...If consensus on these three is arrived, we are ready to support," he said.

The GST bill, which proposes to overhaul the indirect tax regime, has been pending in the Rajya Sabha for a number of years because of resistance mainly by the Congress which wants changes in it.

On capping upper limit for GST, Ramesh said the government says this cannot be accepted as there is no provision in the Constitution for this purpose. But the Article 276 (2) provides for capping and "with creative use of language" the government can accomodate.

Referring to a media report that said some section in the government believes that GST is undesirable, the former Minister said, "the real opposition to GST is not coming from the Congress, it is coming from within the government."

He attacked the government for using Congress as "smoke screen" for the current situation of GST.

Speaking about GDP growth figures, Ramesh said today nobody believes India's GDP figures. "Chief Economic Advisor, RBI Governor, London economists and WallStreet Journal do not believe our GDP numbers," he claimed.

"Nobody is denying that ware having high growth rate. But the number put on GDP are highly suspicious. It (GDP growth) is somewhere between 5.9 per cent and 6.5 per cent and not 7.5 per cent," he said.

Stating that India is growing and the country should grow much faster, Ramesh said, "For the first time, the credibility of GDP numbers are questioned. It has served the government purpose. I urge the government to pause a bit and come out with credible set of figures."

Raising the GSPC issue, Ramesh, whose term as Rajya Sabha member is ending tomorrow, said the country is concerned about non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks and the government cannot be "selective" in investigating NPAs be it private or public companies.

"I am speaking about misappropriation in the Appropriation bill. I am forced to use this route the notice for discussion on GSPC issue was not considered by the Chair," he said.

The government is investigating loan default of Rs 9,000 crore by industralist Vijay Mallya and the government should also probe irregularities at public-owned GSPC.

The Congress leader said, "What about a company (GSPC) which has taken loan of about Rs 20,000 crore and has to pay Rs 8,000 crore annually, while its income is only Rs 80 crore.

Is it not a fit case of NPA?"

Ramesh demanded a probe into the lending of Rs 19,700 crore loan to GSPC when gas reserves had come down to one trillion cubic feet in offshore KG-basin gas project from 20 trillion gas discovery announced in 2005 by then Gujarat CM.

"Yes, UPA was in power but the company was GSPC. Bank loan increased from zero to Rs 19,700 crore. Why did this happen? Investigate this aspect. How was this loan given at a time when reserves were cut by GSPC itself? What did GSPC do? What was this money used for? " he sought to know.

"There can be no selective in its drive to bring down NPAs, misuse of funds and diversion of funds. The Finance Minister should investigate this," Ramesh said.

He also mentioned that the state-run firm had signed two contracts -- one each with 'Geoglobal' and 'Tough Drilling', which were not key players in the oil exploration business.

Referring to a Petroeleum Minister's interview in which he said ONGC was talking with GSPC for buying stake, Ramesh said the government is asking ONGC to buy 60 per cent stake in GSPC which is a sick company and owes Rs 19,700 crore to banks.

Speaking about GDP growth figures, Ramesh said today nobody believes India's GDP figures. "Chief Economic Advisor, RBI Governor, London economists and WallStreet Journal do not believe our GDP numbers," he claimed.

"Nobody is denying that ware having high growth rate. But the number put on GDP are highly suspicious. It (GDP growth) is somewhere between 5.9 per cent and 6.5 per cent and not 7.5 per cent," he said.

Stating that India is growing and the country should grow much faster, Ramesh said, "For the first time, the credibility of GDP numbers are questioned. It has served the government purpose. I urge the government to pause a bit and come out with credible set of figures." .


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