GST row: Govt will reach out to the Opposition again

RSTV Bureau
Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Venkaiah Naidu in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday.

File photo of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu in the Lok Sabha

With just 4 days to go for the second part of the Budget Session of Parliament to begin, the row over the much talked about Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill is back in the news.

The government will renew its pitch to convince the Opposition to pass the controversial bill.

“Yes, GST…we have almost completed discussion with majority of the parties. There are one or two issues and that also we will try to convince Opposition and we want to get it passed because GST is the need of the hour,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu.

“We have been talking to Congress and we will be talking to them finally also before listing the Bill… I am optimistic (the GST bill will be passed during this session),” he added.

The GST Bill, which seeks to replace a slew of central and state levies with a uniform rate, was passed by Lok Sabha in May and is pending ratification by Rajya Sabha where the ruling NDA does not have a majority.

The Opposition, especially Congress is still not on board for the GST Bill. The Congress is opposing the bill in the current form. It demands a cap on GST rate be included in the Constitution Amendment Bill. So the far the BJP too has refused to buckle in on this issue.

“It is now coming down really to one issue. The only opponent to GST is the Congress party. Curiously, the party which had sponsored the law in first instance, has some belated wisdom that you must have a Constitutional cap. Now that seems a little difficult,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said earlier this month.

The Budget Session of Parliament resumes on April 25 and will continue until May 13.

According to Naidu the upcoming session will mainly discuss financial business comprising of discussions and voting on demands of Ministries in Lok Sabha and discussion of selected ministries in Rajya Sabha.

“13 Bills will be taken up in Lok Sabha as per the schedule and we are also planning to take up even the GST also. We are in discussion with other parties (on GST),” said Naidu.

Appropriation Bills of Railways and General Budget and the Finance Bill will also be discussed, he added.

Giving more details, he said discussion for demands of grants for the Ministries of DoNER, HUPA, Skill Development, Social Justice, Civil Aviation and Tourism will be taken up in Lok Sabha while in Rajya Sabha, Ministries of Health and Family Welfare, HRD, Finance, MSEM and External Affairs (if time permits) will be taken up.

Rajya Sabha will take up Bills on Appropriation Act, Whistle Blowers Protection, Industries Regulation, Mines and Minerals, Child Labour Prohibition and Anti-Hijacking, he said.

“Budget is presented and referred to Standing Committees and the Standing Committees have completed their report and will report back to Parliament. On the basis of the Standing Committees report, Parliament will discuss the issues,” Naidu said.

The minister said the Parliament will also take up Bills to replace two Ordinances — The Uttarakhand Appropriation (Vote on Account) Ordinance, 2016 and the Enemy Property (Amendment and Validation) Second Ordinance, 2016.

“Both Ordinances were issued earlier and both have to be approved by the Parliament,” he said.

(With inputs from PTI)