Tamil Nadu Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan was responding to Goa’s Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho’s demand for an apology for allegedly insulting small states, Goa in particular, during the GST Council meeting.

PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan TN's Finance Minister holding the mic
news Controversy Sunday, May 30, 2021 - 14:55

Tamil Nadu Finance Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan, on May 30, issued a statement to the people of Goa to “set the record straight”. He stated that he did not act against the interests of Goa’s people at the 43rd Good and Services Tax (GST) Council meeting chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on May 28. PTR, as he is also referred to as, was responding to Goa’s Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho’s allegation that the Tamil Nadu Finance Minister called for more attention to the sentiments of bigger states, rather than smaller states like Goa. Stating that the comments were condemnable, Godinho, who represents the Goa government at GST Council meetings, demand an apology from PTR.

The Goa Minister, during his press briefing on May 29, said, "I took offence at yesterday's (May 28) meeting because he told the Union Minister, 'what is Goa, it is a small thing, it is a small population. You should listen to me'.” Godinho added, “The Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu should apologise. I want to remind the new Finance Minister of Tamil Nadu Mr Palanivel to refrain from conducting himself in a manner as a big brother versus small brother or big state versus small state. We all have equal rights. His attitude should be condemned by one and all right-thinking people. He should not target Goa."

Responding to this, Minister PTR Palanivel Thiagarajan wrote that every statement he made during the meeting was consistent with two principles, which is the long-held position of the party — one, the ‘one state, one vote’ of GST is an unfair model; and two, the local self-governance model, as advocated by Dravidian movement, is the logical extension of self-respect and self-determination. "Even when the principle resulted in the loss of potential future revenue to Tamil Nadu, we backed states that voted for this exception, including Uttar Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and ironically, Goa,” said PTR, who added that including Extra Neutral Alcohol (ENA) into GST and away from state taxation would have yielded revenue to Tamil Nadu, which is a net importer, at the cost of states such as Uttar Pradesh, which are net exporters.

“We also fully backed the rights of Sikkim (only Agenda item of this kind listed) to levy a special Cess within its borders to raise funds for the COVID-19 fight, and by extension, the right of any state, big or small, to do so,” he explained. There was no agenda during the GST meeting regarding Goa’s intention to levy Cess and therefore he could not have voted against Goa’s interests, PTR wrote. “I simply could not have voted at all on an agenda item that did not exist, let alone vote against it!” he alleged.

In his scathing statement, PTR referred to Goa Transport Minister's press conference and asked, “whether he is limited in comprehension, in honesty, or both. But I am sure you are aware of his history and have drawn your own conclusions before this incident,” said PTR, alleging, “If doubt lingers, I add that he was vociferously, and repeatedly, against lowering the GST on COVID-related Drugs and Vaccines from 5% to 0% on humanitarian grounds.”

The Goa Minister had said that he had pitched for more GST revenue share for Goa on account of the stoppage of the mining industry and the crumbling tourism industry, which has been impacted by the pandemic.

PTR also stated that he did not have to apologise to the people of Goa since he strongly advocated for their rights. “In any event, I have no need to apologise to the people of Goa, for I have done you no harm. In fact, I have strongly advocated for your state government's rights. I do not require or expect any thanks for that, as my position was dictated by my principles of strengthening States' Rights and Federalism with enhanced devolution,” he wrote.

PTR, however, offered his "sincere condolences" to the people of Goa, "for having such a person" as their Minister. "I also charge the Chief Minister of Goa with perpetrating a misdemeanour on Goa's citizens, and the GST council, by nominating him to represent your beautiful state. Finally, I sincerely request BJP, even across the political divide, to impose some minimal quality control on its "MLA Acquisition" procedures. If t had sone so, Goa and the nation would be saved a lot of pain,” the Tamil Nadu Minister wrote.

(With input from IANS)