The Opposition Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party have taken to the streets of cities like Vadodara, Surat, and Valsad in Gujarat to stage protests against the BJP-led government in the state. They have been demanding the withdrawal of 18% GST, which they claim the state government has imposed ‘this year’ on entry passes for Garba events being organised in Gujarat as part of the nine-day Navratri festival.
In actuality, this year’s Garba has not seen any ‘new’ GST introduced by the state government. GST has always been implemented on tickets priced above Rs 500 for any commercial events. In fact, prior to the introduction of GST, it was standard practice to apply service tax and VAT.
However, without verifying details, the Congress and AAP members have reportedly been performing Garba on the streets to protest against the ‘fresh’ imposition of GST on Garba this year, by the state administration.
“People of Gujarat are very angry. The BJP has formed the government with the blessings of Hindus and now the government wants to earn money by imposing a tax on Garba, which is a Hindu tradition and the identity and pride of Gujarat. BJP wants to destroy Gujarat’s identity by imposing a tax on Garba,” alleged senior Congress leader Amit Chavda.
The Aam Aadmi Party has also written to the Chief Minister demanding that the GST on Garba should be removed as it insults faith. State President Gopal Italia said that Garba is a tradition of Gujarat, the culture of Gujarat and the faith of crores of people relates to Garba. Gujarat celebrates Garba as an occasion to seek the blessings of the Goddess. But the BJP government has imposed a GST of 18 percent even on Garba, rued the AAP leader.
BJP hits back, says tax prevalent since 2017 in all states including those ruled by the Congress
Hitting back at the opposition parties for smearing the state government’s reputation by disseminating false information, Gujarat education minister and state government spokesperson Jitu Vaghani said, “GST on entry passes to any cultural event, including commercial Garba events, has been in place since 2017 and has been approved by all states, including those ruled by the Congress.”
“The opposition is only interested in inciting people. This protest is politically motivated because GST on different types of cultural events has been there since 2017. The Centre had issued a notification in this regard in 2017 and every state had agreed on such a tax,” added Vaghani.
“That notification was issued with the consent of each state. After that, many events were organised in the country, including in Congress-ruled states. This GST is on the entry fee. This is not new. And, there is absolutely no tax on non-commercial Garba events organised by residential societies,” he further stated.
Pertinently, as per Desh Gujarat, the Garba entry pass GST issue gained traction after a Gujarati daily first disseminated this false information.
Subsequently, United Way of Baroda, a Vadodara-based NGO popular for organising mega Garba events, mentioned applicable GST rates on its website. As per the website, a nine-day pass for males would cost Rs 4,838, which includes a Rs 4,100 entry fee and an 18 percent GST of Rs 738, while for females, the entry fee is fixed at Rs 1,298, which comprises Rs 1,100 for the pass and Rs 198 as GST at 18 percent.
Without checking the facts, the Congress and AAP quickly picked up the story and amplified it to disparage the BJP leadership in the state.
What’s the truth behind the implementation of GST on Garba?
The fact, however, is that the state government has not imposed any fresh GST on Garba or any such event. Basically, prior to the implementation of GST, service tax on the entrance to such events was imposed at a rate of 15% if the ticket price per person was greater than Rs 500. In addition to service tax, VAT was also levied on goods used for organizing such events.
In pre-GST period, Service Tax on entry to such events was charged @15% if amount charged for admission was over Rs 500 per person. In addition, there were embedded taxes as credit of VAT paid on goods used for organizing such events was not available for payment of service tax.— DeshGujarat (@DeshGujarat) August 4, 2022
Notably, when Goods and Services Tax (GST) came into effect on 1 July 2017, under the government’s ‘One Nation, One Tax’ policy, it subsumed 17 large taxes and 13 cesses levied by the central and state governments like VAT, octroi, luxury tax, purchase tax, and central taxes like customs duty, central excise duty, and service tax.
The 18% GST on the admission ticket for Garba or any such event if the price of entry is above Rupees 500 per person has been applicable from January 1, 2018, and not introduced this year as being peddled by some media houses and the opposition parties. Since then, the position remains the same. (Notification No. 12/2017-CT (R) dated 28.06.2017, Sl No. 81)
Additionally, GST is only payable if the admission ticket for these events is more than Rs 500 per person.
Notably, GST is only levied on tickets that cost more than Rs 500 for professional Garba events held at party sites, clubs, and stadiums. Residential societies organising Garba and issuing tickets to residents, if under 500, are not taxed.