The BJP-led NDA government is sensing an extremely bleak chance of getting a crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill passed in the current Winter session of the Parliament. With just three working days remaining for the session, which is so far been mired with Opposition protest, especially in the Upper House, one of the senior-most minister in Modi government, Arun Jaitley opined that the Bill was delayed for the “collateral reasons”.
Addressing the annual general meeting of FICCI, the Union Finance minister, however, said that the government will push for other reform bills in the Rajya Sabha, including an amendment to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, a legislation to set up commercial courts and bankruptcy code.
“I have no doubt in my mind that attempt to delay (GST) is entirely for collateral reasons. And the only collateral reason I suspect is if I couldn’t do it, then why should somebody else do it?” Arun Jaitley told the gathering at FICCI on Saturday.
“A delayed GST is better than a flawed GST,” he said adding that politics should not become hurdle to larger interest of the country.
At the same time, Arun Jaitley told that it would not be possible for the NDA government to accept Congress party’s demand of prescribing GST tariff in the Constitution itself.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a fortnight ago met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh to discuss the issues pertaining to the GST Bill. However, not much has moved since then, with opposition parties, especially the Congress party, raising protest against the government on the floor of Rajya Sabha over several issues including the National Herald case and controversy involving Arunachal Pradesh Governor’s orders.
The taxation policy, which the government had planned to roll-out from April 1, 2016, is high on the agenda of the incumbent BJP-led NDA government. Though the Bill has already been approved by the Lok Sabha, it is pending in the Rajya Sabha — the Upper House of the Parliament — where the ruling NDA does not have a majority.
Speaking further at the FICCI event, the Union Finance minister added that he would “still urge and persuade” the Congress party and other Opposition parties to come on board over the GST Bill.
Jaitley further said “we have three days of Parliament left. (They) are extremely crucial and I am going to try and push some of these (reforms),” he said adding, “These are important pieces of reforms which we are going to try and I hope nobody tries to hurt the country’s interest”.
A broad consensus was struck between the Opposition and Treasury earlier on Friday, in an all-party meeting called by Rajya Sabha Chairman Md. Hamid Ansari, to consider and pass nine important legislations but there is still no headway on the GST Bill.
On its part, the principal opposition party is seeking a cap on the GST rate at 18 percent, deletion of the provision of one percent tax by additional levy, and an independent mechanism to resolve disputes and disagreements between the state and the Centre and within the states. It is also opposed to states being given powers to levy additional 1 per cent tax on supply of goods over and above GST rate.
(With inputs from the PTI)