Bengal FM walks out of GST council meeting

New Delhi, Jan 4 (PTI) A day after his party’s leader in Lok Sabha, Sudip Bandyopadhyay, was arrested by CBI, West Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra today staged an angry walkout from a pre-Budget meeting saying there was ‘financial emergency and ‘political environment of fear’ in the country.

Mitra, who was in full attendance at the two-day meeting of the GST Council chaired by Jaitley that ended today, said the Union Budget had become a “meaningless” exercise after Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his address to the nation on new year’s eve, made announcements similar to a Budget presentation.

He said that before walking out, he made the Union Finance Minister, who had called the meeting, hear the expectations of States on his fourth budget to be presented on February 1 and also make him aware of the “financial emergency” imposed by demonetisation and the job losses it has led to.

“I wanted the Finance Minister to hear the reality on the ground, the financial emergency in the country, the political environment of fear all around,” he told reporters after emerging from the meeting.

Bandyopadhyay was arrested by the CBI in Kolkata yesterday in connection with the Rose Valley chit fund scam — a move that promoted West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to allege that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was using central agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and Income Tax department against his political rivals who were raising their voice against demonetisation.

The Trinamool Congress, he said, is today demonstrating against “the political emergency that seems to have happened at every nook and corner on every matter.”

Mitra also said currency demonetiation has led to closure of small industries and left hundreds jobless across the country, including the BJP-ruled States.

While the leather industry in West Bengal has completely collapsed, closure of 12 lakh powerlooms in Maharashtra had led to workers returning to their native places in Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and Telangana.

In case of Maharashtra, the red chilli industry has collapsed, falling by 30-40 per cent; while in Nagpur, oranges industry has collapsed, he said.

“There is a financial emergency that is not being talked about. Even the data that Honorable Finance Minister gave on his receiving taxes, none of the media got the facts as he gave it from April to end of November, not after November 8,” he said.

Mitra said, he wanted Jaitley to hear the truth.

“I would like to say to you today with a very heavy heart that I have walked out of the meeting after making my presentation…,” he said.

The Budget, he said, has “become meaningless for the first time in the history of India. Budget has already been announced by the Honourable Prime Minister. It doesn’t happen anywhere else. Given this perspective, I had to protest it and I had to walk out in protest.” .