At last Goods Service Tax (GST) regime has reached Jammu and Kashmir with Legislative Assembly giving its nod to the Act. The extension of GST to the state, which enjoys special status due to Article 370, created uproar across Kashmir with traders and opposition parties, including National Conference and Congress opposing it.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) led government before implementing the GST in the state tried its best to evolve the consensus by holding discussions with the leaders of the opposition parties and the business leaders. The leaders of the opposition parties despite holding the discussions with the government representatives couldn't break the ice.
The people, who opposed the extension of GST into Jammu and Kashmir left no stone unturned to claim that the extension of the Act would erode the "fiscal autonomy" of the state and would erode the Article 370 further. National Conference and Congress opposed the extension of GST to J&K as they had no other choice. These parties opposed it as they were in opposition. They could not have extended their support. Opposition always opposes whatever government proposes.
On the other hand one cannot understand why the PDP-BJP combine created hype about this Act by holding discussions and involving everyone in the process. Both the parties had enough numbers to get this Act passed in the Assembly. Despite NC and Congress opposing the extension of the Act, the PDP-BJP combine passed the GST Act without any major hiccups. The people who are raising hue and cry about Article 370 being eroded should realize that this Article has already been eroded to its maximum.
This Article stands on its last legs and extension of GST could prove to be the last nail in its coffin. The traders who opposed it couldn't do much as they had to face the wrath of the state. Many businessmen were put either under house arrest or were detained. A few among them reportedly acquired the GST number even before the Act could be extended to the state. A PDP minister confronted the senior NC leaders at the floor of the House for acquiring the GST number in advance and taking common people for a ride by opposing the GST Act in the Assembly. Soon after the Jammu and Kashmir Assembly gave its final nod to the GST the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley congratulated the Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti for "ignoring the separatists and bringing JK under One country, one tax regime."
The BJP state president Sat Sharma described it as "slap on separatists" who don't consider J&K as an integral part of India. Extension of GST to Jammu and Kashmir is an ample proof of the fact that New Delhi is least bothered about the people who claim that Kashmir is a dispute and needs to be resolved. People sitting in Delhi firmly believe that Kashmir is a settled issue and the people who oppose JK's accession with union of India are a bunch of "irrelevant people." The National Conference and Congress who beat their chests on GST being extended to Jammu and Kashmir have forgotten that had these parties been in the power they too would have done the same may be even without holding any discussion over it. Kashmiri leaders and others should realize that GST is no issue there are bigger issues and much bigger connotations which are linked with Jammu and Kashmir. In future also New Delhi would keep on passing the Acts and JK government would have no choice other than implementing these acts in the state. This process has been on since 1947 and is likely to continue till serious negotiations are held about the future of J&K.
It's not GST only till date many central laws and Acts have been extended to Jammu and Kashmir, which according to the mainstream politicians, enjoys special status due to the virtue of the Article 370. Had JK really enjoyed special status these laws would not have been extended to the state. Extension of the GST has dispelled the myth that JK enjoys any special status. It's Delhi which enjoys special status in JK as it can impose anything on the state of Jammu&Kashmir. The only party which opposes the Article 370 is BJP and it keeps on reiterating that it would keep on striving hard to get this Article 370 abolished. At present BJP is in power in Delhi and shares power in JK too so one can expect anything. Even abrogation of Article 370 as the BJP leaders have clearly said that Kashmir would be resolved once for all in next two years.
(Javaid Malik is Senior Editor Greater Kashmir)