Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attempt to blame a former Gujarat Minister for the delay in economic reforms and introduction of the Goods and Services Taxes bill in Parliament is the “biggest joke of 2011,” Chief Minister Narendra Modi said on Thursday.

“It is so ridiculous to blame Gujarat to hide his own faults,” Mr. Modi said referring to Dr. Singh's comments at a conference with editors of television news channels on Wednesday.

Replying to a question on the delay in introducing the Constitution amendment bill on the GST, Dr. Singh, without naming the former Gujarat Minister of State for Home, Amit Shah, said the Opposition parties, particularly the BJP, had adopted a “hostile attitude, and the reasons that have been given frankly…because you have taken some decision against a particular person who was a minister in Gujarat.”

The Prime Minister claimed that the BJP had also demanded “reversal” of the action against the former Minister if the Centre wanted its cooperation in pushing the bill through.

(Mr. Shah was arrested by the CBI in April last in connection with the Sohrabuddin-Kausarbi murder case, and he is now on bail granted by the Gujarat High Court on condition that he will not enter the State till its next order.)

Reacting to the Prime Minister's remark, Mr. Modi said: “It is a useless effort of the Prime Minister to wash of the stains that have stuck on him by attempting to involve Gujarat for his government's failures.”

When Dr. Singh had accepted his “helplessness” in public, he should also put before the people the facts pertaining to the GST, instead of blaming Gujarat or a former Minister and the BJP for the delay, the Chief Minister said.

Mr. Modi maintained that right from the beginning his government and the BJP had adopted a positive attitude to economic reforms and the GST, but it required “political will” to implement the economic reforms.

Nationwide network

The Chief Minister pointed out that when he met Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in Ahmedabad about a year ago, he conveyed the need for putting in place a nationwide Information Technology network before implementing the GST.

“Mr. Mukherjee was in agreement with this view and on the spot directed his secretary to constitute a task force for the purpose. But unfortunately, not a step moved forward in this direction in the last one year.”

Demanding that the minutes of the proceedings of the empowered committee on the GST be made public, Mr. Modi said, “This will show the people that except for talking about progress and reforms in the systems, nothing concrete has happened in the implementation of the GST.”

“Why blame the BJP or Gujarat? Even the UPA partners have cautioned the Centre not to play with the interests of the States in implementing the GST,” Mr. Modi said.

By-election win

On the Assembly by-election result in Khadia, where the BJP won, Mr. Modi thanked the people of the constituency. The BJP's Bhushan Bhatt, son of the former Speaker, Ashok Bhatt, whose death caused the by-election, beat his Congress rival by a margin of 2,473 votes.

Ashok Bhatt had won from Khadia, in the heart of old Ahmedabad, for eight consecutive times.