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4 Days Before Midnight GST Launch, Opposition Parties Consider No-Show

Main opposition party the Congress is not quite sure yet whether it will participate in the midnight launch in Parliament House this Friday of the India's biggest ever tax reform the Goods and Services Tax (GST). Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, invited by the government to be part of the high table in the Central Hall alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modiand President Pranab Mukherjee, is yet to RSVP. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress too has not confirmed participation and neither has Sharad Pawar's Nationalist Congress Party. The Trinamool's Derek O'Brien has said his "party will take a call later this week." The Left's Sitaram Yechury has, however, said his party will not boycott the government's event, though he himself could be away. "We have not issued any whip. So, it is not compulsory for our members to attend but people like former West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta who headed the Empowered Committee will attend, "the CPM chief told NDTV. "We will be deliberating upon the issue and have not taken a stand one way or the other. We will make a comprehensive statement soon and will be able to answer your questions," said Randeep Surjewala, chief of communications for the Congress party, today, adding that the party would "make an elaborate statement on the issue but we have taken note of the different views being expressed about the way rules of GST were being enforced and the plight of small businesses."

Sources said a final call on whether the Congress will participate will be taken after consultations between party chief Sonia Gandhi, Dr Manmohan Singh and senor leaders like P Chidamabaram and Ghulam Nabi Azad.

Mr Surjewala was reacting to media reports that the Opposition has decided to boycott the midnight program. His response indicated that the Congress will wait and watch, especially with several trader organisations planning protests against the unified tax regime that comes into force from Saturday, July 1.

He could not quite answer why the Congress was considering backing out now, since every rule of GST has been designed and frozen by the all-powerful GST council, where state finance ministers of Congress-ruled states represent the party view. "All such questions can he answered when the deliberations are over," was all he would say.

The Congress has so far claimed credit for initiating the mega reform to create a uniform market with a single unified tax system when it was in power but seems to be having second thoughts on taking part in the GST roll-out function after the government detailed a mega launch function with speeches by the President and Prime Minister and with all members of Parliament present in the historic Central Hall.

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