BJP misled us on new taxes, says Sena leader Subhash Desai

Senior Sena leader and Industries minister Subhash Desai says Shiv Sena ministers were not kept in loop about the proposal on drought tax

Call it genuine concern or an effort to distance itself from a decision which has invited public ire, but the Shiv Sena has accused the BJP-led government of not taking the partner (Sena) in confidence, before imposing additional taxes on the people of Maharashtra.

Desai
Desai said the Sena would have discussed the proposal put up at the cabinet meeting, had they been informed in advance. File pic

Senior Sena leader and Industries minister Subhash Desai told mid-day that the Sena ministers were not informed about the proposal that came up for approval at Wednesday’s cabinet meeting. It paved the way for 5% more tax on alcohol, cigarettes and aerated drinks, a surcharge of Rs 2 per litre on petrol and diesel, and 0.20% more tax for gold, diamonds and jewellery, for raising R1,600 crore in the next five months.

Desai’s views are taken as his party’s official stand, as he is a close associate of Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray. Thackeray made Desai a minister even after he lost the 2014 Assembly polls to BJP candidate, Vidya Thakur, who is a junior minister in the state council of ministers.

Much to discuss?
“We would have certainly discussed (its pros and cons) the proposal put up (by the finance department) at the cabinet meeting. But we didn’t have any idea about it,” said Desai, adding that the government needed to discuss major proposals with the Sena which shares power with the BJP.

Desai, who had objected to the Energy Department’s decision of providing tariff rebate to industries in Vidarbha and Marathwada, by leading a delegation of industries from Thane district to the governor, didn’t approve of the government’s planning for increasing revenue collection.

“I am sorry to say that this government has not been able to find ways to increase tax recovery. While the expenditure increases, we need to discover means to increase the income as well. Imposing new taxes isn’t the proper way,” said Desai. He did not tell if he and his Sena colleagues opposed the proposal in the Cabinet meeting.

While the Sena protested on Friday, BJP’s senior minister Eknath Khadse had recorded his dissent in the Cabinet meeting. He had asked for scrapping taxes and suggested that recovery of pending taxes be expedited to increase income.

Why didn’t they oppose then: Sudhir Mungantiwar
Finance Minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said the Sena ministers should have opposed the proposal at the Cabinet meeting. “Financial proposals are placed without informing the Cabinet. And when I placed the proposal, the Sena ministers appreciated it and didn’t say a word against it,” the minister said.

He welcomed the sobriquet ‘pickpocket’ given by Saamna. “They are very right. But I think it’s better to be a pickpocket than a person who robs others to make money for the rich people. I don’t find anything wrong in imposing extra taxes on liquor and cigarettes. I have done it for the distressed people.”

Finance minister is a pickpocket, says Saamna

While Desai refused to comment further on the controversy, Sena’s mouthpiece Saamna went to the extent of calling the finance minister (Sudhir Mungantiwar) a pickpocket. The paper said in its editorial on Friday that PM Narendra Modi was meting out step-motherly treatment to Maharashtra, even when an equally distressed Bihar, was given a relief package of R1.25 lakh crore.

“The Finance Minister has picked the pockets of people for raising funds for mitigating drought. But the entire state is looking forward to financial assistance from the PM,” said the editorial, which is seen as Uddhav Thackeray’s views.

“CM Fadnavis should explain to the people as to what the Centre thinks of the plight of Maharashtra. PM Modi has understood the plight of Bihar and offered the state a package of R1.25 lakh crore. We would like to know when the PM will shower Maharashtra with similar kindness,” added the editorial.

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