Economy to LAC: Opposition charts plan to corner Centre

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The Centre’s inability to pay GST compensation to the states, the ongoing border issue in Ladakh between India and China, allegations of Facebook playing favourites when it comes to the Bharatiya Janata Party, and the economic situation arising out of the pandemic will be the focus of the Opposition parties when they meet next week, leaders involved in the discussions said on Friday.

Barring last-minute changes, the web meeting, visualised as a show of strength is scheduled for next week, ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament that starts on September 14. The date for the meeting is yet to be finalised.

At least 20 opposition parties are likely to meet, which may be chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi with the immediate objective of identifying pressing issues and to look at the possibility of launching a people’s movement on key economic issues faced by people under the current regime. A similar meeting took place on May 22 to discuss the Modi government’s decision to impose a federal lockdown to slow the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. In that meeting, the opposition parties described the ₹20 lakh crore stimulus package announced by the government as a “cruel joke” on the country and noted that “the spirit of federalism is all but forgotten” in the NDA regime.

Leaders of the Congress, Janata Dal (Secular), Shiv Sena, Trinamool Congress, JMM, NCP, DMK, CPIM, CPI, Loktantrik Janata Dal (LJD), RJD, IUML, National Conference, AIUDF and RLD are expected to join the meeting.

The Centre’s inability to pay GST compensation to the states is set to be one of the key issues that will be raised by states ruled by non-BJP parties. The Centre has offered two options before the states to meet the ₹2.35 lakh crore-shortfall in GST revenues in the current fiscal. One involves the states borrowing ₹97000 crore from a special window of the Reserve Bank of India, with the interest and principal to be paid from the compensation cess collected on luxury and sin products. Another involves the states borrowing the entire shortfall of ₹2.35 lakh crore shortfall under the special window, but paying the interest themselves. Many non-BJP ruled states have expressed their displeasure with both options. They want the centre to borrow to make good the shortfall.

The states also blame the Narendra Modi government for economic mismanagement. India’s GDP fell by 23.9% in April-June quarter. The upcoming meeting will seek to start campaign on these key issues but it will look for a suitable method due to Covid-related restrictions. The leaders have identified the government’s “failure in both containing pandemic and providing relief”, the imperative to “protect constitutional order which is being eroded” and the immediate need for e “immediate relief to people” in the backdrop of the economic woes.