The Opposition stood a divided house as NCP, JD(U), BSP, BJD, Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal(S) participated in the midnight launch of the GST, which was boycotted by the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Left and some other parties.
Ruptures in the opposition unity emerged barely a week after 17 parties joined hands to put up a joint candidate against the ruling NDA nominee for the July 17 presidential election.
The Congress, the Trinamool Congress, the Left, the DMK, the NC and the RJD and some other parties boycotted the event, dubbing it as a “tamasha” (drama).
The NCP, a key constituent of the Congress-led UPA, broke away from the Opposition ranks, with its chief Sharad Pawar along with Praful Patel and Tariq Anwar attending the event in the Central Hall of Parliament.
Anwar said his party was attending the GST launch as it had supported the legislation on ushering in the new indirect tax regime in the country.
“We agree with the Congress to an extent, but we supported the legislation when it was introduced (in Parliament and state assemblies). The party has hence decided to attend the midnight meeting,” he said.
On behalf of JD(U), its Bihar unit chief and Rajya Sabha member Vashisht Narain Singh attended the event.
JD(S) supremo and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda also attended the programme, sharing the dais with President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
According to Congress sources, Gowda was requested by a senior party leader not to attend the programme but he did not heed to it.
Yesterday, JD(S) general secretary Danish Ali had said that Gowda had been invited in the capacity of former prime minister to share the dais with the President and the party had decided that he would attend the event.
The JD(S) criticised the Congress for not consulting it before taking the decision to boycott the function.
The BSP, which stood with opposition unity, was represented by two of their MPs - Veer Singh and Raja Ram.
The SP, which had initially announced the boycott, did a somersault by attending the event, saying it found no problem when the party had supported the GST bill in Parliament.
“When we supported the bill in Parliament, then why would we not attend this function to launch GST? Both the BJP and the Congress had also supported the passage of the bill,” said Ram Gopal Yadav, who was accompanied by Naresh Agrawal.
“It is the right political culture where the government takes along the opposition, supporting it on important landmark events in the history of Indian polity,” Yadav said.
Leaders of the BJD and the AIADMK also attended the function.
BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab said, “It was a momentous moment celebrated in the right spirit, where the ruling dispensation shared the dais with the opposition. We have supported the bill and thus participated in the event.”
The Congress, however, downplayed the cracks within the opposition ranks, terming it as a “one-off” development.
A senior Congress leader claimed that the opposition unity will remain intact during the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
Former deputy chief minister of Bihar Sushil Kumar Modi said JD(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar always favoured GST and never opposed it.
He said as Bihar is a consuming state, it will benefit from this landmark tax.
“The big difference between the Congress and the BJP is that the former finance minister P Chidambaram did only lip service, while our finance minister spoke to every chief minister, especially those from opposition parties to address their concerns and build a consensus,” he said.
The function was attended by the union ministers, MPs as well as chief ministers and finance ministers of several states.
BJP chief Amit Shah, party stalwart L K Advani and former finance minister Yashwant Sinha were among the other prominent political leaders who attended the function.