NEW DELHI: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Wednesday rallied chief ministers of seven opposition ruled states as they closed ranks to focus on economic issues and spoke in unison on getting swift goods and services tax (GST) compensation and approaching the Supreme Court to push for a delay of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET).
The virtual meeting, which was telecast live on Wednesday afternoon, was attended by West Bengal chief minister and Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, Maharashtra chief minister and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray, and the Jharkhand chief minister and chief of the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha Hemant Soren, apart from four chief ministers of Congress-ruled states, including Captain Amarinder Singh of Punjab, Bhupesh Baghel of Chhattisgarh, Ashok Gehlot of Rajasthan, and V. Narayanasamy of Puducherry.
The development is significant as the chief ministers highlighted the need for a common platform for regular interaction on issues and strengthening the voice of the opposition.
“There are number of issues related to Centre-state relations. As Parliament is expected to meet in less than three weeks, I thought we should have an interaction so that we can have a coordinated approach. GST compensation seems to be a big issue. Compensation needs to be paid on time based on processes passed by Parliament. I know that is not happening, Dues are accumulated and the finances of all the states are affected,” Gandhi said. Not paying states amounts to betrayal, she said.
“My request to all states will be that we should approach the Supreme Court unitedly (over NEET). Every chief minister must come forward and we all must come together. State governments are being bulldozed like anything… Where will the money come from?” Banerjee asked. The delay in GST compensation will hurt state finances, she said.
Thackeray echoed her views and said there was a need to think whether the structure of GST needs to be relooked. “We need to think whether GST needs to be discussed, whether it needs changes. GST compensation is a big issue but we also need to think whether the earlier GST structure that existed was better than what it is right now,” Thackeray.
In the nearly two-hour meeting, all the seven chief ministers agreed that holding examinations during the covid-19 pandemic could have grave implications and decided that they should unitedly approach the top court for a review petition on its earlier order.
Singh suggested that the opposition parties should hold a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi over GST, while Gehlot highlighted the financial constraints by stressing on the need to increase the purchasing power of people. Baghel spoke about shortcomings in the National Education Policy, while Narayansamy spoke in detail about the attack on the federal structure.
Thackeray noted, “Pehle tay karna hai, ladna hai ya darna hai, (we need to decide whether we want to fight or be scared),” while Banerjee highlighted that there should be greater coordination between like-minded parties.
“There is a feeling that the opposition is weak and is not raising issues very strongly. The way all the central institutions are being used against us, it is going to hurt the federal structure,” Soren said. He proposed a common platform to have regular meetings for raising issues related to the Centre. Thackeray said that such meetings should not happen only when a crisis arises but should be a more regular feature.