NEW DELHI: Forced by the incessant pressure from the Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC) and the opposition Akali Dal, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh today took up the issue of GST on langar and prasad in his meeting with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and sought exemption from tax.
However, there was no reassurance from the Union Finance Minister about any such exemption, sources said.
"The Chief Minister urged the (Union) finance minister to waive off GST on Langar and Prasad given out at Gurdwaras/Temples/Churches/Mosques. The Chief Minister had earlier written to the finance minister seeking GST exemption on Langar (community kitchen) and the Prasad distributed at various religious institutions," a press release issued by the state government claimed.
The Punjab Government remained ambiguous about the Centre's response with the statement merely claiming that Jaitley "has directed department officials to look into all the issues and coordinate with officials from Punjab government to resolve them."
Punjab Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Amritsar MP Gurjit Singh Aujla had also accompanied the Chief Minister.
Political pundits said the Akali Dal played its hand extremely smartly by first getting the SGPC into the act, then claiming ownership of the issue of seeking exemption from GST for langar and now putting the ball firmly in the court of Amarinder Singh.
Failure to force the Centre to exempt langar from GST will reflect poorly on Amarinder Singh while any positive response from Jaitley would be leveraged by Sukhbir Singh Badal as the victory of the Akali Dal. Punjab Congress has so far not succeeded in underlining that the Akali Dal was a component of the ruling NDA, an argument well anticipated by Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal who wrote to Jaitley seeking GST exemption.
With Akali Dal's bases covered, Amarinder is left to fend for himself and in case Jaitley does not budge, the political outcome may not be to the liking of Amarinder.
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