Giving a clear message on the pending legislation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST), the BJP-led NDA government has reached out to the Congress party, which has been opposing the Bill for the last two sessions. Though the Bill has already been approved by the Lok Sabha, it is pending in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA despite of improving its strength still does not have a majority.
With the Monsoon Session of Parliament set to begin next week Monday, new Parliamentary Affairs minister Ananth Kumar called up leader of the opposition in the Upper House Ghulam Nabi Azad and Deputy leader Anand Sharma. Formal talks are likely to take place shortly.
While the Modi government has termed GST as the most significant economic reform in indirect tax since independence, Congress party is seeking a Constitutional cap on the GST rate.
Congress is seeking a cap on the GST rate at 18 percent and a deletion of the provision of 1 per cent additional tax. They also want an independent mechanism to resolve disputes and disagreements between the state and the Centre and within the states — three sticking points over the passage of GST, which has led to a political logjam.
Dismissing suggestions that the Congress was against the bill, Anand Sharma said the party is the author of the bill and its only concern is that it should be “meaningful and substantive”.
He added that the Congress also wants clarification from the government on taxability of various goods like petroleum, alcohol, tobacco and electricity. The government also needs to clarify whether the GST would subsume various cesses including the Swachh Bharat cess, Sharma sought to know.
“There has to be firm ring fencing of the GST cap. It is for the government to give proposals to address the issue,” Sharma said, adding “ball is in their court” referring to the Modi government.
Adding that the principal opposition party will take a “considered view”, once it hears from the government, the Congress’ Deputy leader said, “We have never said we will not talk. Once we know government’s stand, we will see where meeting point is there and Congress leadership will take a considered view”.
He also regretted that the government, instead of engaging Congress in a constructive dialogue on the GST for a consensus chose to be “confrontationist”.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had last year in December 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 inputs from the PTI)