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Posted at: Jun 30, 2017, 12:03 AM; last updated: Jun 30, 2017, 12:03 AM (IST)

The midnight show

India’s tryst with a new tax regime
The midnight show
AT the stroke of midnight on June 30, as the world sleeps, India will wake up to a new tax regime — anxious, uncertain and unprepared. It requires tremendous showmanship and verve to copycat a tax reform launch moment — significant no doubt — with India gaining Independence 70 years ago. Now instead of Nehru, Narendra Modi will make the speech. Unfazed by the stinging criticism of his previous botched-up policy initiative called demonetisation, Modi has displayed the same kind of self-righteousness to take the plunge, regardless of the consequences. The country must learn to live with risks.

It does not seem to bother Mr Modi least bit if opposition leaders warn him of demonetisation-type chaos, or raise the issue of propriety — a Prime Minister ignoring the protocol and himself launching a programme instead of letting the President do the honours. On such big occasions it does not matter if small traders or farmers take to the streets to make this demand or that. In such a large country everyone cannot be made happy and there are always experts who have their doubts on everything or questions about the timing. The BJP leadership is at least consistent: it did not care for the ordinary folks’ troubles then and it is equally unconcerned now. There will always be people who do not own computers or who refuse to learn the basics of computing and accounting. The GST move is in keeping with the BJP’s work philosophy: act first, think later. It is gracious of Finance Minister Jaitley that he has admitted to the possibility of “teething troubles” in the beginning. He had no such apprehensions at the time of demonetisation. 

Uncertainties, lack of preparation or fears of things going wrong can unnerve weak-kneed, less-confident leaders, but not Mr Modi. One cannot imagine Dr Manmohan Singh organising such a self-congratulatory show at midnight. As Finance Minister, he had undramatically announced India’s most momentous economic reforms. There was a ring of sincerity to his 1991 budget speech. Now that the country has a stage performer as a PM, everyone should sit back and enjoy the Friday night spectacle.


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