“Most ridiculous”: Chidambaram accused by the government of high inflation during the reign of Congress | Exclusive

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Rajdeep Sardesai spoke with top congressional leader and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram about inflation and other pressing issues.

Congressman and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram at a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday (Photo credits: PTI)

India Today TV Consulting editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai spoke to top Congressman and former Union finance minister P Chidambaram about inflation and other pressing issues. Extracts:

Q: The government says who is Congress to lecture on inflation? He says inflation was higher during the reign of Congress. Your answer?

So Congress won’t talk about it. So who will talk about it? What is that ? Ten years ago there was inflation. So, therefore, my inflation today is justified. This is the most ridiculous argument I hear from political parties. Yes, there was high inflation between 2009 and 2011, but it was brought under control in 2012 and 2013. So what? We are not currently evaluating the government from 2009 to 2012. We are evaluating the government in place today. So answer: why is inflation so high? And why don’t you take the visible and obvious steps? That’s the question. We must put an end to this hassle. And I would ask the media to end the “and why”.

Q: The government says some states in Congress have high taxes on fuel. Why don’t you cut taxes too? Why only the Center? Your answer?

No way they could get away with this. Center imposes excise duties; states also impose state taxes. No one denies it. But the taxes of the Center are more than those of the State. Suppose they cancel each other out. But what about stops? On gasoline, the cess is Rs 33 per liter; on diesel, the cess is Rs 32 per liter. A cess can only be imposed by the Center. And these transferred revenues go entirely to the Center. The Center collects Rs 4.2 lakh crore continuously. How is this justified?

Q: Do you want all the fuel constraints removed?

I am not saying that all processes should be deleted at once. Remove Rs 5 from gasoline, Rs 5 from diesel. Immediately there will be some relief for the people. And as your non-gasoline and non-diesel revenues increase — and you should look for opportunities to increase your other revenues — then cut down on the processes. Assignments are bad taxes. Cessations are generally imposed for a specific purpose, for a specific period. A cess cannot be a general tax that exists forever.

Q: The government says we are in the middle of a pandemic and it needs oil revenues to support public spending …

Public spending itself is questionable. For example, why did you give tax breaks to the corporate sector of Rs 1.45 lakh crore? Completely unnecessary. Look at the profits people made when the pandemic raged. Look at the net worth of the top 20 business houses. Look at the market capitalization. Last year you wrote off Rs 4.50 lakh crore in bank loans to the corporate sector. It is not petty cash.

Q: Do you think the time has come to make fuel GST taxable?

Not under the current exemption. There is a total rupture of trust between the Center and the States. The Center treats the GST Council with little respect. States are at war with the Center.

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