Special Correspondent

JAIPUR: The Opposition rocked the Rajasthan Assembly on Thursday over the Government not taking the House into confidence in announcing changes in the tax proposals made in the State Budget, introduced two days back. The House was adjourned twice during Zero Hour after the entire Opposition stormed the well of the House shouting slogans against the Government and the ruling Congress party members countering them. The absence of Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot during this time seemingly infuriated the Opposition.

Deputy Leader of Opposition Ghanshyam Tiwari and Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Amra Ram sought permission from the Speaker to move a breach of privilege motion against the Chief Minister who had presented the Budget in his capacity as Finance Minister.

Soon after Question Hour, Mr. Tiwari rose to say that the Government, by announcing that VAT on major food grains, pulses and cereals besides sugar, steel, cotton and few other items in the Schedule 4 would remain at 4 per cent, had committed a breach of privilege.

The Government on its part said there was no rollback on the tax proposals and what it did was merely issuing a clarification as there seemed a certain vagueness on the aspect -- increase of VAT from 4 per cent to 5 per cent -- so that the public was made aware of the real position and escape attempts by traders to overcharge.

“These items are in the Central list. Even if we had raised VAT on them beyond 4 per cent it would not have been valid,” Mr. Gehlot said speaking to newspersons in his chamber in the Assembly. “In the first place items in question were not included. If the Government had to withdraw the rate that would have been done in the House only,” he said, pointing out that the haste in the “clarification” was out of concern for the common man.

Mr. Tiwari said either the Chief Minister had misguided the House or his officers misguided him in deciding to announce a hike in VAT from 4 to 5 per cent as the State was not competent to do so. After the first mistake made in the Budget speech, the Chief Minister committed another the next day by giving approval for withdrawal of the hike. Mr. Tiwari said the Government's actions resulted violation of the Articles 202, 203 and 204 of the Constitution besides the Business Rule 138 and the Budgetary Rules.

The Opposition members moved into the well thereafter as Speaker Deependra Singh Shekhawat reserved a ruling on the notice for privilege motion. The House was adjourned first at 12-36 pm and when it reassembled at 1-36 pm the members continued with their demand.

As peace returned and the House took up the debate, Mr. Tiwari sought a ruling from the Speaker on his notice on the privilege motion. On this Mr. Shekhawat said the ruling would be given later.