The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP builds VAT plank for election
- Now governor under fire for not pushing ‘people-friendly’ tax concessions
Voice against vat

Ranchi, April 2: The BJP has touched a raw nerve. It has decided to make the state’s “failure” to extend the value-added tax (VAT) waiver on essential commodities its plank for the Lok Sabha elections.

The VAT on foodgrain and vegetables (onions and potatoes) was first imposed in April 2006. However, the then Arjun Munda government bowed under pressure from trade bodies and passed an ordinance in June to waive the tax. For the past two years, subsequent governments extended the relief through notifications. This time, with elections round the corner and the model code of conduct coming into play, the ordinance that expired on March 31 could not be renewed. The BJP, however, blames the price pinch on a laggard state, which, it says, deliberately delayed the process of issuing a notification. Party strategists are planning to cash in on this “failure”. The VAT on foodgrain is certainly going to upset the kitchen economy of the poor and middle class families, and the BJP is leaving no stone unturned to tip the scales in its favour harping on the issue.

The party’s state spokesperson Sanjay Seth said it was the state’s “irresponsible attitude” that delayed issuing of the notification to extend the VAT waiver. “The common man has to bear an extra burden of 4 per cent tax on essential items in these troubled times,” he said.

The BJP leader said that the state, if it so wished, could obtain permission from the Election Commission at this juncture and bring out a notification waiving the tax on foodgrain, potatoes and onions. “The model code of conduct came into force on March 2. The state could have acted prior to that. Moreover, if it can seek permission for auction of liquor shops while the code is in force, why doesn’t it seek the same for waiving the VAT?” he said.

The state commercial taxes department is yet to impose the VAT on foodgrain, which was supposed to come into effect yesterday. Department secretary Alka Tiwary refused to comment on the matter, saying that “things” had been referred to the chief secretary and finance department “for due action”.

According to insiders, the governor’s secretariat was ready to extend the VAT waiver and the process to obtain a nod from the advisory council had also been set into motion. But the plan had to be shelved following an EC rap on the dearness allowance (DA) hike issue.

Meanwhile, concerned over the non-renewal of the ordinance, various trade associations have decided to approach the governor’s office. Federation of Jharkhand Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FJCCI) president Anchal Kinger said traders had threatened to go on strike if the commercial taxes department put undue pressure on them.

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