The Congress party is considering continuing the stalemate in Parliament in the upcoming Budget session starting on 23 February if the government does not revise the Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill incorporating the former’s demands or reach out to provide a “common meeting ground”.
“No one has approached the Congress, or to the best of our knowledge, the opposition also,” Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi told this newspaper. Alleging a rigid stand by the government, Singhvi added: “One of the main issues to be addressed is that in view of the broad support of most of the points raised by the Congress, and the report of the government-nominated CAA, the government should give up a sense of ego, arrogance and reach out so that some meeting ground can be found.”
While not ruling out another stir by the Congress and other Opposition parties in the Rajya Sabha, Singhvi said, “It will depend on whether they (government) make any changes in the bill. If nothing is changed (in the bill), why will we change our stand?” he added. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday that the government will press for the GST Bill and Bankruptcy Bill in the second part of the Budget session.
Jaitley, recently in a letter, said that almost all political parties except the Congress, support the GST. “The Congress has done a volte face. Both Parliamentary Affairs Minister (M. Venkaiah Naidu) and myself have discussed the GST with every senior Congress leader in Parliamet. Is the Congress position on ‘Constitutional Cap’ not motivated by real politics? The economist in Dr Manmohan Singh should advise his party that tariffs are not provided for in the Constitution.” The minister said that the transition from the UPA to NDA government has been from policy-paralysis to a global bright-spot while Congress’ stand on the crucial GST Bill has been motivated by real politics. The government had said on Tuesday that they will discuss the points of conflict in the GST Bill with all stakeholders including the Congress before the start of the Budget session so that the bill can be passed in this session itself. The Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill was introduced in 2014. After being passed in the Lok Sabha, the bill has been pending in the Rajya Sabha. The crucial GST Bill has been victim to the washed out sessions of Parliament.
The GST Bill is an amendment bill to introduce the goods and services tax. If the bill is passed, Parliament and state legislatures will have powers to make laws on GST. Only the Centre will be able to levy an integrated GST (IGST) on interstate supply of goods and services, and imports. Additionally, liquor has been exempted from the purview of GST. GST will apply to five petroleum products at a later date. A GST Council will be formed that will recommend rates of tax, period of levy of additional tax, principles of supply, special provisions to certain states and more. The council will have the Union Finance Minister, Union Minister of State for Revenue, and state Finance Ministers. The bill also empowers the Centre to impose an additional tax of 1% on inter-state supply of goods for two years or more. Parliament may, by law, provide compensation to states for any loss of revenue from the introduction of GST, up to a five-year period.