NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi was closeted with BJP chief Amit Shah and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday evening, setting off the buzz that they could be giving shape to a stimulus package ahead of dates being announced for the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections.
Shah cut short his high-decibel campaign against alleged political violence in Kerala to take part in the deliberations.
Jaitley leads a team of five Union ministers who have been made election in-charge for Gujarat. Sources said the Gujarat elections appeared high on the agenda of Modi and Shah. “Since the BJP is running into spirited campaigns by the Patidar Patel community led by Hardik Patel, and the Dalits seem anguished because of a number of incidents involving them, the party doesn’t want to take any chances. Therefore, the stimulus package, if any, or measures to ease financial stress on the middle class and farmers could be unveiled before the Election Commission notifies dates for the polls,” sources said.
Neither the government nor the BJP divulged the agenda of the meeting. The meeting came a day after the Prime Minister sharply rebutted critics’ claims that the economy had come under stress because of demonetization and the hurried rollout of the goods and services tax (GST) regime. Modi invoked Shalya of the Mahabharata to slam his critics while former finance minister Yashwant Sinha vowed that he would not be a Bhishma watching over the “disrobing of the economy”.
In further indication that the Modi regime was mulling loosening of the fiscal purse, senior ministers Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goyal, Nirmala Sitharaman and Anant Geete went into a huddle with Jaitley at North Block to discuss the disinvestment agenda by going ahead with divestment in Pawan Hans. “It’s true that the fiscal position of the government has come under stress on account of the glitches in the rollout of the GST, besides slackening of the economy.
Thus, the disinvestment agenda, which was agreed upon about a year back, is being sought to be revived. The NITI Aayog had also readied about 20 PSUs which will be put on the disinvestment agenda to mop up additional resources to allow the government to meet FRBM (Fiscal Responsibility and Budgetary Management) obligations and meet the fiscal deficit target,” the sources added.
Short-term plans presented to PM
The NITI Aayog, which has been brainstorming short-term measures to put the economy back on the high-growth trajectory, is learnt to have placed its recommendations before the Prime Minister
Relief for exporters in GST meet?
The GST Council, which is slated to meet in New Delhi on Friday, is expected to decide on providing some relief to exporters in terms of faster refunds as well as compliance. According to sources, easy compliance for exporters, such as quarterly filing of returns instead of monthly filing, may also be discussed. The meeting will also assess the improvements in the GST Network’s (GSTN) functioning.
The Group of Ministers (GoM) led by Sushil Modi, set up to look into GSTN glitches, will brief the Council on the portal’s functioning. The GoM in its meeting on Wednesday had asked GSTN and Infosys to brace up for handling the rush of last-minute filers.