Chennai: Tamil Nadu’s finance minister Palanivel Thiagarajan on Sunday denied Goa’s transport minister Mouvin Godhino charges that he had insulted Goans at the 43rd GST Council meeting held on Friday. He also refused to tender an apology as demanded by Godhino stating that he advocated for Goa’s state rights at the meeting.
Godhino, who represented the Goa government in the GST council chaired by Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during a press conference on Saturday said that Thiagarajan had commented that Goa is a small state with a small population and bigger states should be given more attention. Godhino demanded his apology and asked for Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin to condemn his behaviour.
On Saturday, Thiagarajan spoke to reporters outside the secretariat and said that states with a high population like Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra didn’t get adequate time to represent their concerns. Without naming Goa, he said that the voice of a ‘tiny state’ whose population is just half of Madurai district was heard ‘10 times’ than what was needed. “That state got more opportunity than many other big states.” he said. Stating that one vote for one state model of the GST council is unfair, he said that voting value should be based on the state’s population or its manufacturing capability, consumption, per capita income.
Thiagarajan, in a statement questioned if Godhino is ‘limited in comprehension, in honesty, or both’. He said that Godhino was against lowering GST on Covid-19 related drugs and vaccines from 5% to 0% on humanitarian grounds. “He spoke for many times the length of the inputs from the honorable minister from Uttar Pradesh, a state of over 2 million citizens and indeed every other state,” Thiagarajan said leaving it to the public to decide whether that serves India, and its democracy.
Thiagarajan said his speech in the meeting was guided by the Dravidian tenet of local-self governance. He cited the example of including Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) into GST and away from state taxation would have yielded revenue to Tamil Nadu, which is a net importer, at the cost of states such as Uttar Pradesh, which are net exporters. “Even when the principle resulted in the loss of potential future revenue to Tamil Nadu, we backed states that voted for this exception, including Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and ironically, Goa,” he said. He added that they also backed Sikkim to levy a special cess within its borders to raise funds for Covid-19 control measures. “…and by extension the right of any state, big or small to do so,” he said.
Following the GST council meeting, Tamil Nadu hasn’t figured in the group of ministers constituted on May 29 to examine the issue of GST concessions/exempt to Covid relief material. Lok Sabha MP D Ravikumar, of Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi (VCK) and ally of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) called this discrimination and asked for Tamil Nadu’s finance minister to also be included in the panel.