Arun Jaitley should act as the country’s finance minister, not as Vodafone’s advocate,” Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan secretary Pankaj Vidyarthi said at Jantar Mantar while inaugurating Swadeshi Andolan’s “Boycott Vodofone” campaign on 9 August. Swadeshi Andolan is an offshoot of KN Govindacharya’s Rashtriya Swabhiman Andolan (RSA).
The Government of India is not implementing the law concerning the collection of tax dues of Rs 20,000 crore from Vodafone, alleged the activists gathered under the banner of the RSA. More than 28 months have lapsed since the law was passed by Parliament, they reminded. The present government should use its enforcement powers to effect recovery of tax dues from Vodafone without fear or favour, the RSA demanded.
The outfit holds that the argument put forward by the new government that the matter should be settled through litigation since Vodafone is pursuing the international arbitration is specious. The government should recognise the supremacy of the law enacted by Parliament rather than plead about some bilateral investment treaty, the demonstrators said. They noted that legislative enactment prevailed over the treaty. The collection of tax dues by government has nothing to do with the international arbitration, which is yet to begin in London, they observed.
When speaking in the programme KV Biju, organisation secretary of Swadeshi Andolan said that the government inaction was a ploy to protect Vodafone’s interest. “We are also concerned over the manner in which the previous government handled the issue. It is difficult to comprehend why the then government joined reconciliation discussions with Vodafone, which went on for more than two years,” Biju wondered.
Neither the previous nor the present government explained to Parliament or the people why such discussions with Vodafone were initiated, the RSA complained. It accused the NDA Government of indulging in corruption by means of furthering the argument that the retrospective tax would adversely impact the investment environment.
The quasi-socialist organisation appealed to the people to boycott Vodafone and switch to MTNL or BSNL, and protest “government inaction”.
Those present at the protest site other than Vidyarthi and Biju were the RSA’s convener (Delhi) Manoj Chaturvedi, secretary (Delhi) Navneet Singh and Rajendra Suman, a national executive member. They delivered speeches in course of the demonstration.