Published Date: May 30, 2021
"The Hallmark of Character is Consistency in one's principles, even at a cost."
"Empty vessels make the most noise."
Politicians are motivated by a variety of reasons. I am a politician for principles, representing the 4th Generation of my family working consistently for the same ideals. In my current role for the State of Tamil Nadu, I am responsible for several Departments in a state of about 8 Crore citizens, and for presenting a budget of almost 3 Lakh Crores to the Legislature. So, I generally do not respond to noises emanating from sources that are unworthy of response.
But I make this exception for two reasons. First, to counter the baseless lies uttered by Goa's Transport Minister stating that that I have insulted the people of Goa and asking my Leader & Chief Minister to condemn my behavior during a press conference. Second, and more important, the whole Nation of India should know how such individuals impact the quality & output of the GST Council.
On behalf of my party, I have 2 clearly stated, and long-held positions.
1) The "One State = One Vote" model of the GST Council is fundamentally unfair. We are not nearly the first to state this view and will not be the last. Our view is consistent with the fundamental Democratic Principle of Proportional Representation, and consistent with our revered Constitution, which allocates seats in Village Panchayats, City Councils, State Legislatures, and both houses of the Parliament using this very principle.
2) The Dravidian Movement has long advocated Local Self-Governance as the logical extension of our core principle of Self-Respect and Self-Determination. As such, we are ALWAYS for States' Rights, and a truly Federal Governance Model that devolves powers from the Union Government to the lowest level practical.
I have no intention of going into details of all the deliberations in the Council Meeting held on May 28th, 2021 (which went on for nearly 8 hours), to preserve the confidentiality of my colleagues' positions. But I will state the bare minimum to set the record straight. Every statement I made during the entire meeting was entirely consistent with these two principles. Even when the principle resulted in loss of potential future revenue to Tamil Nadu (including 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), we backed states that voted for this exception, including Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, and ironically, Goa.
We also backed fully the right of Sikkim (only Agenda item of this kind listed) to levy a special Cess within its borders to raise funds for the COVID fight, and by extension the right of ANY State, big or small, to do so. There was NO agenda item regarding Goa's intention to levy any Cess, so I simply could NOT have VOTED AT ALL on an agenda item that did NOT EXIST, let alone vote against it!
With this context, the only question arising from you your transport minister's press conference is whether he is limited in comprehension, in honesty, or both. But I am sure you are aware of his history and have drawn your own conclusions before this incident. If doubt lingers, I add that he was vociferously, and repeatedly, against lowering the GST on COVID-related Drugs & Vaccines from 5% to 0% on humanitarian grounds.
I conclude by saying that I found his statements during the meeting to be highly repetitive, largely vacuous, hectoring, mostly redundant to others' inputs, supercilious, and devoid of the basic courtesy of assuming good faith in the comments of other states' Ministers. He spoke for many times the length of the inputs from the hon'ble minister from Uttar Pradesh, a state of over 20 Crore Citizens, and indeed EVERY other state.
I leave to the public to decide whether that serves India, and Democracy, well.
In any event, I have no need to apologize to the people of Goa, for I have done you no harm. In fact, I have strongly advocated for your State Government's rights. I do not require or expect any thanks for that, as my position was dictated by my principles of strengthening States' Rights & Federalism with enhanced devolution.
But I do offer you my sincere condolences, for having such a person as your Minister. I also charge the Hon'ble CM of Goa with perpetrating a misdemeanor on Goa's citizens, and the GST Council, by nominating him to represent your beautiful state. Finally, I sincerely request the BJP, even across the political divide, to impose some minimal quality control on its "MLA Acquisition" procedures. If it had done so, Goa, and the Nation would be saved a lot of pain.
This is the only statement I will make on this topic, or indeed related to this individual.