NEW DELHI: The Congress today claimed credit for the GST Council's decision to cut tax rates on 178 items of daily use, saying the government was forced to do so due to the pressure mounted by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the "huge response" his campaign had been receiving in poll- bound Gujarat.
Leading the charge against the government on the Goods and Services Tax (GST), Gandhi said the Congress would continue to fight for a 18-per cent cap on the highest GST slab instead of the current 28 per cent, and vowed that the party would get the job done "if the ruling BJP doesn't".
He also reiterated that India needed a simple tax and not the "Gabbar Singh Tax" as he had been describing the tax regime to target the Modi government.
Congress general secretary in-charge of Gujarat, Ashok Gehlot told PTI that the GST Council yesterday decided to cut the tax rates due to the pressure mounted by Gandhi and the "huge response" he had been receiving in the poll-bound western state.
Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, has been under the BJP's rule for over two decades and the Congress is trying to oust it from power. Congress leaders, particularly Gandhi, have made the GST and demonetisation as key issues of their campaign.
Gehlot claimed the GST Council brought about the changes in tax rates with an eye on votes in Gujarat. The state goes to poll in two phases on December 9 and December 14.
"It (BJP) is rankled by trepidation that Gujarat will slip off its hands. That's why the rates were cut. The Council did so because of the pressure Rahulji mounted and response his yatras in the state are getting," he said.
Congress's chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala termed the GST Council's move "installment-based tinkering" which he said underscored the "chaos within and adhocism" of the BJP-led central government.
Accusing Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and the government of "paying lip service and creating havoc", Surjewala said the Congress was determined to make the tax regime "flawless".
"India needs a simple tax, not Gabbar Singh Tax. The Congress and people have got 28 per cent tax abolished on several items fighting for it. Our fight for 18 per cent cap with one rate will continue. If the BJP doesn't do it, the Congress will," Gandhi tweeted.
Surjewala demanded that petroleum products, real estate and electricity be brought under the ambit of the GST. He also called for reducing "compliance burden" of the GST and added that the textile sector was faced with deep stress due to "distorted duty structure".
"Adjournment and deferment, rather than decision, appear to be the 'way forward' for this government.
"None of these challenges have been addressed by the Council. This is owing to the sheer ineptitude and amateurish handling of the biggest tax reform by BJP the government," he added.
Congress leader Pawan Khera said that the credit should be given to Gandhi.
"There was a pressure from Rahul Gandhi. The Gabbar Singh Tax went so much viral in Gujarat that the BJP did not know how to deal with it," Khera said.
He, however, added that much more needed to be done to extend the relief to the farming community as the central excise on fertilisers was 1.03 per cent before GST, but after the new taxation system came into force, the tax was increased to 5 per cent.
He said that the tax on agricultural equipment such as tractor was as high as 18 per cent.
The GST Council yesterday decided to reduce the tax rate on items ranging from chewing gums to detergents -- to 18 per cent from current 28 per cent The all-powerful council pruned the list of items attracting the top 28 per cent tax rate to just 50 from 228 previously.
The GST, implemented from July 1, has five tax slabs of 0 per cent, 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent.