National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah said on Tuesday that if his party is voted to power in the next assembly election, it would explore “all options” to bring the central Goods and Service Tax (GST) Act “in line with the autonomous character” of Jammu and Kashmir. The party is likely to make the promise a part of its manifesto for the Assembly election.
“So far no roadmap has been prepared but we have asked Rather Sahab (senior NC leader Abdur Rahim Rather) to see what we can do to bring changes to it (GST) for good of the state,” Omar said in an exclusive interview with Greater Kashmir.
“We are working on it,” he said.
In 2017, the National Conference led the opposition to the implementation of the GST in the state in its present form, stating that the uniform tax regime would erode J&K’s special status and its fiscal autonomy.
However, the then PDP-BJP government went ahead and facilitated its extension to the state despite protests in Kashmir and opposition by the mainstream parties and trade bodies.
Omar, a former chief minister, said the party was looking at “all options”.
“We are looking at all aspects of the GST. I don’t know how much scope the previous government has left for us, but whatever scope is there, we will bring changes to make GST regime friendly and in line with the autonomous position of J&K,” Omar said.
Jammu and Kashmir had powers to levy and collect taxes because of the fiscal autonomy the state enjoyed. The state legislature had the powers to decide the tax rates as well.
However, under the new regime, these powers were taken away from the state and vested with the GST council headed by the Union finance minister.
Omar said it was a “bad decision” by the then government to extend GST in its original form to the state.
“We have maintained that it will have both short and long term losses for the state…it did erode fiscal autonomy of the state,” said Omar, adding that the Act was one of the mistakes committed by the PDP-BJP government.
The NC leader also questioned the previous regime for not fulfilling the promises made to different sections of the society vis-à-vis GST implementation.
“Those promises, the budgetary support to handicrafts sector, the tourism and other sectors, to take care of the impact of the GST on these sectors were not fulfilled. Nobody got anything and today all are crying. It is because whatever fiscal autonomy we had, GST took it away,” said Omar.