Sholay-style warnings, the Goods and Services Tax debate has now entered ‘stupid’ territory with a senior Congress leader invoking the word to lash out at Prime Minister Modi. On Thursday, former finance minister P. Chidambaram went after Prime Minister Narendra Modi for recently calling the Congress demand to cap GST at 18 per cent a “grand stupid thought”, asking if the government considered its Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian also stupid for voicing the same argument.
“If it is grand stupid thought to argue for a cap of the tax rate at 18 per cent, then CEA Arvind Subramanian and many other economists are stupid. Is that what the PM is saying,” Chidambaram tweeted. The Congress leader then fired off more tweets to make his point.
At a rally in Gujarat’s Morbi on Wednesday, Modi had mocked “some intellectuals and economists” for misleading the country. “The Congress wants the same 18 per cent tax on something as essential as salt and something as expensive as Rs 5 crore worth car. They want 28 per cent tax on alcohol and costly cigarettes to be reduced to 18 per cent. “Do you want to sell cheap alcohol and spread cancer by selling cheap cigarettes? This is nothing but a grand stupid thought. There can’t be any bigger anti-poor and anti-middle class thought,” Modi had said.
Single rate GST not possible, says Jaitley
Asserting that a single rate Goods and Services Tax (GST) is not possible in the country, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Thursday it is only applicable in a nation where the purchasing power of the people is uniform.
“It is possible only in an economy where there is similarly placed population to have a single rate to start off with. In a highly differentiated society like India, it is not possible. Therefore we started with differential rates,” Jaitley said here at the HT Leadership Summit.
“We had an atrocious tax system pre-July 1. These brackets would not have been possible if everyone were not on the same page. Let me make it clear, though, a single rate GST is not possible in India. We cannot have a tax system which has the same rate for a Hawai chappal and Mercedes car,” Jaitley asserted.
The finance minister said the country will need a “boom period” like during 2003 to 2008 in order to achieve 10 per cent growth, which is a “challenging figure”.
Mersal snowballed on Saturday with Congress vice President Rahul Gandhi and party leader P. Chidambaram attacking the BJP over alleged attempts to muzzle criticism as BJP leaders justified their attack on actor Vijay who did the lead role in the movie.
Several leaders of parties in Tamil Nadu, including DMK working president M.K. Stalin, joined the debate calling the demand for removal of some dialogues from the film as an attempt to stifle free speech.
Tamil superstar Kamal Hassan and president of Film Producers’ Association Vishal also came out in support of Vijay.
Gandhi took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the demand for removal of dialogues critical of GST in the movie and asked him not to “demon-etise Tamil pride” by such interference.
“Mr. Modi, Cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don’t try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal,” Gandhi said in a tweet.
Vijay has been panned for his dialogues in the film that takes a dig at GST and Digital India. Vijay, who had met Narendra Modi during electioneering ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, had even lauded demonetisation last year.
BJP’s national secretary H. Raja in a tweet on Friday raked up the actor’s Christian origins. “Joseph Vijay’s hatred for Modi is Mersal.”
Tamil Nadu BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan had demanded removal of the dialogues relating to GST, digital payments and temples from the movie as they spread a wrong message.
The controversy spooked the production company behind the film enough for them to say by Saturday evening that the BJP’s outrage was was “justified”. N Ramasamy of Thenandal Studios Limited said the film “is only about quality healthcare for ordinary citizens and not against the government”. Thenandal Studios CEO Hema Rukmani also reached out to BJP leaders in the wake of the outrage.
“Singapore which collects 7 per cent GST offers free healthcare but why isn’t our government that collects 28 per cent GST giving free healthcare? 12 per cent GST for medicine but liquor that ends the marriage of our mothers doesn’t come under GST.”
Actor Vijay’s dialogue in Mersal that outraged the BJP
Earlier on Saturday, senior Congress leader P. Chidambaram attacked the BJP in tweets over its demand for removal of dialogues critical of GST in Mersal
“BJP demands deletion of dialogues in Mersal
. Imagine the consequences if Parasakthi
was released today.
“Notice to film makers: Law is coming, you can only make documentaries praising government’s policies,” he said, in a sarcastic note.
was a strong critique of the prevailing socio-economic order in 1950’s, scripted and written by DMK leader M. Karunanidhi, and in which the actor, late Sivaji Ganesan mouthed his powerful dialogue.
Hitting back at Chidambaram, Union Minister and BJP leader Pon. Radhakrishnan wanted to know why the Congress leader was supporting Vijay, asking derisively whether he has funded the film.
H. Raja, continuing his criticism of the actor, said somebody who speaks on matters should be above board. “Vijay is not above board as he has faced tax raids and people will not believe him,” he said.
Haasan, in his reaction, said those opposed to the film must “counter criticism with a logical response”.
was certified. Don’t re-censor it. Counter criticism with logical response. Don’t silence critics. India will shine when it speaks,” Haasan tweeted on Friday.
Stalin in his tweet said: “BJP’s attempt to muzzle criticism is contrary to democratic principles. The DMK always stands for freedom of speech & creative expression.”
Vishal said any attempt to re-certify the film by taking it back to censors would be against the law.