GST stalemate: Govt reaches out to Congress again

RSTV Bureau
FILE: File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh at his official residence in New Delhi. Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley and Union Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu also seen.  Photo - PTI

File photo of Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh at his official residence in New Delhi. Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley and Union Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu also seen.
Photo – PTI

On Thursday, the government again reached out to the Congress to end the long standing stalemate over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amendment bill.

Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu called on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to seek her support to pass the GST in the Rajya Sabha. Naidu also conveyed to the party president that the government was willing to advance the Budget Session if the Congress was on board on the issue of GST.

“We had invited Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed with them the GST and other bills. In the same context, I as Parliamentary Affairs Minister of the government today met the Congress President and recalled to her that as per the discussion held earlier, Congress party should finalize its stand. They had raised some issues, which were answered by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley…Since the government has already spoken to Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Congress’ Deputy Leader in the House Anand Sharma in this regard, I reminded her that a quick decision should be taken and we should move forward immediately on the GST and the Real Estate Bill,” Naidu told reporters after the 20-minute long meeting.

In response, the Congress chief told the Parliamentary Affairs Minister that she will discuss the issue with other party leaders and get back to the government.

On the issue of an early budget session Naidu said, “I said if you take a positive decision, we can also call the Budget Session early. I merely gave an indication for it…I have not made any commitment.”

This is the second time that the government has reached out to the Opposition on the issue of GST. Earlier on November 27, when the Winter Session was on, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh over tea to iron out the differences on the issue.

Sources have revealed that the government is mulling the idea of convening an early Budget Session in the 3rd week of Febuary ever since several regional parties have promised their support to the GST. However, the government also wants Congress to be on board before convening an early session.

The GST along with several other important bills remained pending in the Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session because the Opposition continuously stalled the proceedings of the House.

Three sticking points still remain on the issue of GST. One, the Congress demands a constitutional cap on the GST rate, two, it wants the 1 per cent additional tax on inter-state transfer of goods removed, and three, the Congress wants a Supreme Court judge headed dispute resolution panel.

So far the government has agreed to only blink on the 1 per cent additional tax on inter-state transfer of goods. The other two sticking points remain.

However, the government still continues to maintain that the new tax regime will be implemented by the middle of 2016.

(With inputs from PTI)