Being an ace lawyer, former Finance Minister Arun Jaitley quickly had a hold over the goods and services tax (GST) laws, but it was his political acumen that helped resolves all the contentious issues related to the new indirect tax regime.
Not surprisingly, as the chairman of the all-powerful GST Council he ensured that all decisions were taken through consensus taking the opposition parties on board. Using his excellent inter-personal skill, Jaitley drove the country’s biggest tax reform and led the team of officers to launch the GST within the stipulated time.
Among the key lieutenants were Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia and GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar who remember Jaitley as a true statesman and reservoir of knowledge.
“He was the best Minister I had in my entire career. He was not a politician but a true statesman. I am privy to his statesmanship in making the GST a reality. But for him, the GST would not have been implemented in such short period of time,” Adhia told IANS remembering his close association with the former Minister and a BJP stalwart.
Adhia worked closely with Jaitley for four out of five years of his tenure as Finance Minister.
Being the biggest economic reform in India’s history, the GST saw many teething problems in the initial months, drawing flak from the opposition parties. But Jaitley never seemed to be affected by it and swiftly acted to fix them.
Kumar, then GSTN Chairman, said Jaitley had a good grasp over the technical issues related to law. Recalling the early days of GST Council, he said the Council was like a mini Parliament and Jaitley steered it very well.
“He made valuable contribution to consensus building. He tried to impress upon everybody present in the meeting, whether they were from his own party or the opposition. Whatever issues were raised by members he looked at it, asked officers to come up with solution and bring all the facts. He then put all the facts before the Council and persuaded the stakeholders to come to a consensus,” Kumar said.
Being Finance Minister, Jaitley headed the GST Council with finance ministers of states and Union Territories (UTs) as members. He chaired 32 of the 36 meetings of the GST Council and took decisions with consensus even as the apex body comprised members from opposition-ruled states, such as Kerala and West Bengal.
After prolonged illness, Jaitley passed away on Saturday afternoon at AIIMS, but he would always be remembered as a key architect of the GST that seeks to transform Indian economy.