On Wednesday morning, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley addressed a gathering of industry leaders on the much-talked about Goods and Services Tax. Here, the FM said that he was ready to scrap the 1% additional tax, which is one of the three sticking points that the Congress has been objecting to.
Even though Jaitley relented on one issue, he questioned Congress’ demand of capping GST at 18% as part of the Constitution. On this, the Finance Minister vehemently said that it was not agreeable.
“I have told my friends in Parliament that I am ready to go back to those manufacturing states and tell them that we have guaranteed you to make good for all the loss suffered in the first five years. So this one per cent additional levy issue is resolvable,” he said.
While talking about the impasse over the passage of the bill in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said that the matter can be resolved only if the Opposition had an intent to resolve it.
“…If the intention is that India must not be allowed to grow, it had slowed down when I was in power (and) therefore it should slow down when somebody else is in power, if that is the intention then I am afraid we will have to find alternative methods of how to proceed with this,” Jaitley said in an apparent attack against the Congress.
“India has right to grow much faster, India has right to achieve full potential, and nobody in India has right to slowdown the process of growth,” he warned.
The FM also hit out at the Congress for not allowing the Parliament to function.
“When history will adversely record the role of each one of us, probably when Parliamentary democracy was being paralysed and progressive legislation was not allowed, it won’t only record the disrupters it will also record people like us, particularly we the leaders of the House who wish everyday that the House does function,” the FM said.
“But I think the real strength of India’s democracy is not whether we will be able to pass it. If we introspect the weakness of democracy, the issue where everybody claims to support it and still the country feels helpless of not being able to pass it and therefore, more the pressure you build, the more those who stop it realise that they have a price to pay for it and probably the faster we will be able to ensure the passage of the Bill,” Jaitley told the industry leaders.
He also accused the Congress of setting a wrong precedent for future Opposition parties by continuously disrupting Parliament. He warned the party, saying, history will not be kind to the “outlaws of Parliamentary” system.
With government business being blocked in Rajya Sabha, future decision making “will have to take place through executive action and money bills,” said Jiatley. Money bills, which largely concern taxation, government spending or having financial implications, can be introduced only in Lok Sabha. And Rajya Sabha cannot make amendments in a Money Bill passed by Lok Sabha.
“If by these tactics you become outlaws as far as parliamentary democracies are concerned, then you will make a decision making process particularly in relation to legislation extremely difficult and governments in the future will have to realise decisions making have to take place through executive action and through money bill,” threatened Jaitley.
During his address, he also spoke about the benefits a rollout of the GST will bring. According to Jaitley, GST will help the growth of states. He added that GST Council will decide the rates and the Centre will only have 1/3 representation and states will have 2/3 representation.
He claimed that the Congress has no real reason to stall the GST bill as it went through the Standing Committee, Empowered Committee and Select Committee and the recommendations of all the committees were duly accepted.
“GST is an idea which I have no doubt that, if not today, tomorrow it has to be approved, we are just going through the agony prior to the passage of the Bill,” Jaitley told industry leaders.
(With inputs from PTI)