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Top Leaders, Industrialists, Cinestars Mark GST Launch

Amitabh Bachchan, Lata Mangeshkar, Urjit Patel and many more were present during the launch of India's historic tax reform.

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The historic Central Hall of Parliament tonight opened for its first midnight ceremony in two decades for the launch of India's most sweeping tax reform, GST, with country's top leaders, cinestars and industrialists in attendance.

President Pranab Mukherjee, who piloted the first constitutional amendment for unifying more than a dozen central and state taxes, shared a specially erected dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and former prime minister H D Dewa Gowda too were on the dais with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh too was supposed to be on the dais but he yesterday sent a regret letter to the Prime Minister's Office apparently owing to his Congress' party's decision to boycott the "tamasha" (gimmick) launch ceremony.

Megastar Amitabh Bachchan, country's most famous singer Lata Mangeshkar as also industry doyen Ratan Tata were in attendance at the launch of the Goods and Services Tax (GST).

Almost the entire council of ministers and MPs from ruling alliance sat in the circular hall along with opposition law makers from Samajwadi Party, BJD, NCP and JD-U.

Congress, Left, TMC and RJD boycotted the ceremony.

NCP leader Sharad Pawar was seated with BJP president Amit Shah in the front row before the ceremony began, until former deputy prime minister and senior BJP leader L K Advani arrived and sat between them.

SP's Ramgopal Yadav was seated in the front rows, so were Bhartruhari Mahtab of BJD and AIADMK's A Navaneethakrishnan. Subramanian Swamy, a bitter critics of GST-Network - the IT backbone provider for the new indirect tax regime, was also present at the launch.

Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel also attended the ceremony. Former finance minister Yashwant Sinha as also Vijay Kelkar, who had first mooted the concept of GST in a report to finance ministry way back in 2003, were also present at the launch.

Unlike the last midnight event held in 1997 on the occasion of golden jubilee of the Independence at a special session of Parliament, it was a gala event at its circular - shaped hall that had been loaned for the launch of the historic reform.

Reminiscent of India's tryst with destiny on the midnight of August 15, 1947, former prime minister H D Deva Gowda too was present on the dais to launch a new taxation system that is set to dramatically re-shape over USD 2 trillion Indian economy.

As if giving representation to regional political parties, former Punjab chief minister Prakash Singh Badal and National Conference leader Abdul Rahim Rather were invited for the event. Former GST Council chairman Sushil Kumar Modi, former finance ministers of West Bengal and Kerala Asim Dasgupta and K K Mani, who played crucial role in negotiations for GST, were also present.

CAG Shashi Kant Sharma and his predecessors Vinod Rai and TN Chaturvedi, CVC K V Chowdary, three Election Commissioners including CEC Nasim Zaidi, Niti Aayog vice chairman Arvind Panagariya, Metro man E Sreedharan, editor S Gurumurthy, agriculture scientist M S Swaminathan, UPSC Chairman David R Syiemlieh, CBEC chairman Vanaja N Sarna and CBDT chairman Sushil Chandra were also present.

Senior lawyers Soli Sorabjee, KK Venugopal and Harish Salve as also heads of industry chambers - Pankaj Patel of Ficci, Shobana Kamineni of CII and Sunil Kanoria of Assocham too were on the list of invitees.

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