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NEW DELHI: Senior Congress leader P Chidambaram on Thursday hit back at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a day after the latter said that the Congress’s demand that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) be capped at 18 per cent was a ‘Grand Stupid Thought.’
Chidambaram wondered if PM Modi considered other proponents of such a move – including Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramanian – “stupid.”
If it is Grand Stupid Thought to argue for a cap of the tax rate at 18%, then CEA Dr Arvind Subramaniam and many ot… https://t.co/0Ht5tIxiG1
— P. Chidambaram (@PChidambaram_IN)
Yesterday, at a rally in Gujarat’s Morbi, the PM had said: “Some intellectuals and economists are misleading the country. Congress wants the same 18% tax on something as essential as salt and something as expensive as Rs 5 crore worth car. They want 28% tax on alcohol and costly cigarettes to be reduced to 18%. 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.”
Chidambaram further asked if the PM had read a 2015 report by a CEA-led committee that suggested a standard GST rate of 17-18 per cent, based on a revenue-neutral rate (RNR) of 15-15.5 per cent.
He demanded to know why the normal GST rate couldn’t be 15 per cent and the RNR plus rate on luxury goods be 18 per cent.
“Tax and spend is the credo of the BJP government. Example: when crude oil prices fell by 50%, prices of petrol and diesel remained the same,” he wrote.
The Congress has been very vocal in its criticism of the GST as it was conceived by the Modi government.
The party’s vice president Rahul Gandhi went so far as to call it a ‘Gabbar Singh Tax’. He also promised that if the BJP did not reduce the tax rate to a flat 18 per cent, his party “will do it in 2019.”