Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has again raked up the issue of how the Upper House can stall and block key economic reforms of the government. While referring to the crucial Goods and Services Tax bill, which the government has not been able to push through the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said the “weight” of directly elected house must always be maintained.
“To what extent our Upper House is going to be used to block economic decision making… in Australia the debate is on, the UK has gone through this debate a while ago and Italy is having the same debate. Because ultimately the weight of a directly elected House will always have to be maintained,” Jaitley said while speaking at the Growth Net Summit in the capital.
This is not the first time Jaitley has raised concern about the issue. In May 2015, Jaitley had said the Indian democracy faced a serious challenge with an ‘indirectly elected’ Upper House questioning the wisdom of ‘directly elected’ Lok Sabha.
The Goods and Services Tax bill, which seeks to replace a slew of central and state levies with a uniform GST rate, was passed by Lok Sabha in May and is pending ratification by Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA does not have a majority.
Jaitley also said that he will again speak to the Congress to garner support on the GST bill so that it can be passed in the second half of the Budget session which begins on April 25.
The Congress is opposing the bill in the current form. It demands a cap on GST rate be included in the Constitution Amendment Bill.
“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,” Jaitley said.
On the Congress demand for capping the GST rate at 18 per cent, Jaitley said that it was a fair stand but it should be left to the GST Council to suggest the rate.
“I have no problem with the rate… But I hope with some consensus on that reasonable rate between two national parties, we are able to arrive at a more consensual approach,” he added.
(With inputs from PTI)