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Govt Says Manmohan Singh Coming For GST Launch, His Office Says 'No'

Minutes before the midnight launch of Goods and Services Tax (GST), Narendra Modi government appeared to be making a final attempt to convince former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the historic function, which Congress and other Opposition parties, except JDU and NCP, have decided to boycott

Pallavi Ghosh | CNN-News18pallavighcnnibn

Updated:June 30, 2017, 10:54 PM IST
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Govt Says Manmohan Singh Coming For GST Launch, His Office Says 'No'
File photo of former prime minister Manmohan Singh. (Photo: Getty Images)
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New Delhi: Minutes before the midnight launch of Goods and Services Tax (GST), Narendra Modi government appeared to be making a final attempt to convince former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to attend the historic function, which Congress and other Opposition parties, except JDU and NCP, have decided to boycott.

While Santosh Gangwar, junior minister for finance, said Singh was most likely to attend the function in the Central Hall of Parliament, the latter’s office categorically denied it.

“Dr Singh had written a letter yesterday night, communicating that he will not be able to attend the function,” former PM’s office told CNN-News18.

On Thursday, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi met Singh, who was invited by the government as a special guest to acknowledge his efforts in making GST a realty, to discuss the party’s stand to boycott the launch.

On the other hand, the BJP tried to extend an olive branch in the form of a personal invite from Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to the former PM.

Singh has previously crossed over party lines to put across his point. One such instance was during the parliamentary committee meeting during discussions on demonetisation last year. While most Opposition leaders, including many from Congress, wanted to quiz Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Urjit Patel over the move, it was Singh who had stepped in and said that it was important to respect autonomous institutions and decisions made by them.

BJP was hoping to see a repeat of this. The dilemma over attending the midnight launch doesn’t end with Singh’s participation. Congress has always maintained that GST, among many other policies launched by the NDA government, was their baby. Hence, skipping the launch of its own ‘dream project’ would make the party look weak.

There are many in the political spectrum who strongly feel the party should have attended the midnight launch and then claimed credit for the policy.

Former Union finance minister P Chidambaram has deflected criticism over the opposition boycott of the launch of the GST, saying the Parliament event is mere “symbolism”. The senior Congress leader, who is one of the original architects of the GST, rejected criticism that the boycott is “childish”.

“The Congress party was the originator of the idea of GST and has welcomed GST. Not attending a midnight event has nothing to do with the fact that Congress party supports the idea of GST. The substance is important, not the symbolism,” Chidambaram told CNN-News18 on Friday.

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