With the Left losing power in West Bengal, the Empowered Group of State Finance Ministers, which is currently engaged in building a consensus on the GST, will have to find a replacement for Asim Dasgupta who has been heading the body since its inception.
As West Bengal Finance Minister, Mr. Dasgupta was involved with the Empowered Group for more than a decade. Earlier, he was the convenor of the VAT panel and played a key role in implementing the new tax regime.
As chairman of the Empowered Group, Mr. Dasgupta was engaged in preparing a blue print for implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) along with other state finance ministers.
In the Assembly elections, Mr. Dasgupta lost to TMC candidate and Ficci Secretary General Amit Mitra by a margin of over 26,000 votes.
The view that seems to be emerging is that the new chairman of the Empowered Group should be somebody who has experience of serving in the body.
“As a chairman of the group, we would prefer somebody more experienced in handling intricacies of party politics,” said one of the members of the body.
This stance goes against the view in some quarters that Mr. Mitra is a favourite to replace Mr. Dasgupta.
“Mitra, if he is allocated the finance portfolio, would have his hands full with affairs back in West Bengal. He should be focusing on that,” the member said.
The new chairman will have a tough task of bringing a consensus among states and the central government on the GST.
“At this moment it is premature to speculate about who the chairman of the Empowered Group would be. Not only West Bengal, but two other very important states —— Tamil Nadu and Kerala —— have witnessed change in governments and would be having new faces as finance ministers,” Madhya Pradesh Finance Minister Raghavji said.
He said any decision in this regard has to be unanimous.
“A decision would be reached only on the basis of consensus among state governments, besides taking on board the view of the central government. This will also mean consensus between the Congress and the BJP, who are two major political parties in India,” Mr. Raghavji said.
“Dasgupta worked very hard during his tenure as chairman of the Empowered Group. Whoever becomes the new chairman will have a big task before him, especially in taking ahead the matter of GST” he added.
In the Budget Session last year, the Government had introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha which seeks to pave the way for the Goods and Services Tax.