A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the Congress leaders to garner support to push through the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in the Parliament, senior Congress leader Anand Sharma has told Rajya Sabha TV that the three sticking points still remain.
“Congress is not negotiating on GST. Our demand for changes in the GST bill is not meant for achieving political benefits….The Congress is in favour of the GST but we want a robust GST regime,” Anand Sharma told Rajya Sabha TV on Saturday evening.
Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge met Congress’ General Secretary Rahul Gandhi early on Saturday morning to hold a closed-door meet on GST, the key economic reform measure that the NDA government is struggling to bring in.
The government was hopeful of a positive outcome when it met Congress leaders Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh over tea to iron out the differences on Friday evening.
“It has been a constructive engagement and a work in progress. It is not a question of going back or going forward. The three demands of Congress were neither political nor partisan,” Anand Sharma had told the reporters after the crucial meeting.
And the government decided to establish “fresh contact” with the Congress once the party was done with its internal discussion on the three issues of “their concerns”, Finance Minister and Leader of the House in Lok Sabha, Arun Jaitley told the press on Friday.
In the negotiations between the Congress and the government, the left parties seem to be unhappy for having been excluded from the discussion.
“My party was not contacted by the government…Our point of view on GST was not discussed with us…That is a match-fixing which I have always talked about,” alleged Sitaram Yechury, the General Secretary of CPI(M).
Congress 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. It also wanted tobacco and petroleum products included within the GST ambit.
Even though the process of discussion has begun, it will be an uphill task for the strategy managers of the Modi government to bring both the Congress and Left parties on board for a smooth passage of GST bill in the Upper House.