Chennai: Slamming the Centre for bringing rice under the service tax ambit and sparing wheat from it, DMK President M Karunanidhi on Friday questioned the `north-south` differentiation and asked if those in power at Delhi were not interested in the votes of rice-consuming citizens.
Those ruling at the Centre seemed to be unnerved by the fact that elections were due soon and were coming out with announcements which were not acceptable to people, he said.
"One among them is that they have levied service tax on rice, which is the staple food of south (Indians). While rice has been removed (from the list of) agricultural produce, the same has not been done for wheat and it has been given tax exemption. Why this north-south difference?" he asked.
In a letter to partymen, Karunanidhi asked did those Central Ministers representing rice-consuming states oppose the move or not.
"Have those in power in Delhi decided that they don`t need the votes of rice eating people," he asked.
The Union Finance Ministry had opined that while paddy was an agricultural produce, it was not the case with rice since it underwent processing and dehusking, thus excluding it from the "agricultural produce" category which is exempted from paying service tax.
According to Finance Ministry, rice and cotton were not on the negative list of items on which 12.36 per cent of service tax need not be paid.
Karunanidhi, quoting rice merchants and mill owners, said that the move will result in increase in rice prices.
He asked what was the state government`s response to the "attack on rice" and demanded that it raise objection with Centre on this matter.
Common yardstick of justice should be followed for the wheat consuming North Indians and south Indians, and there should be "equal justice" to all by treating them as Indians, Karunanidhi said while demanding rollback of the service tax on rice and cotton.