Edappadi K. Palaniswami joins opposition voices demanding withdrawal of GST hike on essential commodities

AIADMK veteran says the hike can make price of all food products spike.

Published : Jul 20, 2022 18:27 IST

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami.

Former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami. | Photo Credit: BIJOY GHOSH

Edappadi K. Palaniswami, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) interim general secretary, has joined opposition voices across India in asking the Union government to withdraw the recent GST rate hike on essential commodities.

In a statement released in Chennai, Palaniswami said that many items which were earlier exempted from the GST were included in the ambit of taxation in the 47th GST Council meeting, which was attended by the Tamil Nadu Finance Minister too. Commodities used by the common man and the poor, including packaged rice, milk, curd, jaggery, and so on have been subjected to GST. This hike in tax has the potential to hike the prices of all food products, he said. In the new regime, bank cheques will attract 18 per cent GST, hotel rooms less than Rs.1,000 will attract 12 per cent GST, and hospital rooms over Rs. 5,000 will be taxed at 5 per cent.

All factions of the AIADMK have been supporting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in all its decisions and have not dared to criticise it. The new move comes after two related incidents–the sudden activation of the Central Bureau of Investigation in the Gutka case against former State Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar and the Income Tax searches on RR Constructions, a company which is reported to have close links with Palaniswami.

Kerala move

Meanwhile, the Kerala government has made it clear that it will not impose GST on items sold in small quantities in kirana shops and the retail outlets run by the women Self Help group, Kudumbashree. Its Finance Minister K.N. Balagopal said that if a product is not packaged or if it is in 1 kg or 2 kg packets, the government will not impose GST, even if this meant that the State government would be on a confrontational path with the Central government.

In a statement on July 18, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that “many small shopkeepers and millers pre-pack and keep these items ready for sale so that the customers can readily purchase them off the shelf rather than spend time getting the items weighed and packed.” He had requested Prime Minister Narendra Modi to intervene and stop this “so that common persons are not put to further hardship at this juncture when high inflation rates are prevailing”.

No discussion in parliament

At the time of this being published, the Lok Sabha Speaker had disallowed a demand from the opposition parties for a discussion in price hike, inflation and GST. On July 19, Manickam Tagore, Congress MP, said: “In the Lok Sabha, Opposition parties led by the Congress and supported by the DMK, TMC, NCP, CPI(M), CPI, VCK, IUML, KC, TRS and SP, wanted a discussion on price rise and GST but the government did not allow…Why is the government afraid to discuss?”

The same scene repeated on July 20 in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress demanded a discussion on the “senseless GST”. Jairam Ramesh, MP and Congress leader, said: “Modi Sarkar’s obstinacy continues. Business in Parliament is suffering.”

The Telangana Rashtra Samithi, one of the most strident critics of the BJP of late, stepped up its criticism over the GST issue. Krishnan, its social media convenor, sharing a news item on July 19, pointed out that “when it is for Adani Airport, GST can be exempted.”

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