Govt firm on GST Bill but Cong sticks to opposition

RSTV Bureau
New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during the  'India Summit 2015' organised by UK-based Economist magazine, in New Delhi on September 9, 2015. Photo - PTI

New Delhi: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks during the ‘India Summit 2015′ organised by UK-based Economist magazine, in New Delhi on September 9, 2015.
Photo – PTI

Amid renewed opposition by the Congress party, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley once again asserted that Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill will be a reality soon. The bill, which is on the forefront of the reforms agenda of the incumbent Modi government, has been pending before the Parliament. Though it is passed in the Lok Sabha, the government has not been able to even table it before the upper house due to the opposition by the Congress party. But now, the government claims that it has backing of almost “all parties” on the issue.

“Only a matter of time before GST is passed… Almost all parties are supporting the bill,” the Union Finance minister said.

Speaking at ‘India Summit 2015’ organised by UK-based Economist magazine, Arun Jaitley said that the government wants to implement the bill by April 1, 2016. The Union minister, who also doubles up as one of the senior BJP leaders in the Union cabinet, criticised the principal Opposition party for opposing the bill.

“The date today doesn’t seem to be under my control because of obstructionism of Congress, but hopefully sooner or later it will be passed and we will have a much easier indirect tax regime,” he said.

The NDA government has, however, ruled out a special Parliament session to discuss the GST Bill as Union Finance Minister announced the government move to prorogue the Monsoon session on Wednesday.

The major challenge before the government happens to be its numbers in Rajya Sabha. As a Constitution Amendment Bill, the legislation on the GST warrants to be passed with 2/3rd majority in the upper house and that may not be possible unless opposition Congress party is on board. In addition, the government also faces opposition from the Left front as it too had registered its dissent on few clauses when the bill was examined by the Parliamentary panel.

On the other side, the Congress party sought to dismiss the government claims that it is against the reforms.

Cong-protest-in-Parl-4

FILE: Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi along with other senior Congress leaders during one of its protest against the Modi government at the Parliament House complex. Photo – PTI

“We are for the passage of GST if our amendments, which are in national interest are accepted,” Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

The Congress party was deliberating over the issue in its top decision making meet, the Congress Working Committee (CWC), on Tuesday.

Discussing the GST bill in detail before the delegates at the CWC meet, former senior ministers P Chidambaram and Anand Sharma said that the party reiterate its “continued commitment towards implementing GST” but will only support the legislation if the incumbent BJP-led NDA government addresses the “existing shortcomings” in the bill.

The recently concluded Monsoon Session of the Parliament saw heightened impasse between the opposition and the government over the issue of Lalit Modi controversy and a massive recruitment and admission ‘Vyapam’ scam of Madhya Pradesh. In an unprecedented development, the ruling NDA combine had even taken out a protest march against the opposition, especially the Congress party, on the last day of the Monsoon session over the latter’s in-house protest.

(With inputs from the PTI)