BJP issues whip to RS members on GST Bill
The government is likely to come up with fresh proposals over pending Congress demands on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill to get the opposition party’s support for the long-pending legislation listed to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Government sources said that while a key Congress demand to drop the proposed 1 per cent additional tax on inter-state sale had been met last week as the Union Cabinet decided to amend the bill, the government is willing to walk some distance on its other two demands — a cap of 18 per cent on the GST rate and an independent dispute redress mechanism.
The government lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress is the single largest party. The sources said the dispute redress mechanism will be structured in a way that the states will have a greater say in the matter.
They said that the GST rate will also be based on a principle that is fair to both the states and the consumers. The mechanism to compensate states for the loss of revenue for five years has already been incorporated in the amended bill.
The BJP has issued a whip to all its Rajya Sabha members to be present in the house for the next three days to get the GST Bill passed.
“The GST Bill is listed for Wednesday. We hope it will be passed through consensus,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters here.
“The mood is in favour of passing the Bill,” he said, adding that parleys are being held with different political parties as the bill concerns all the states.
The government had initially planned to take up the Goods and Services Tax Bill on Tuesday but opted to delay it by a day apparently because of Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s scheduled programme in Varanasi on Tuesday, which is likely to be attended by many party leaders as well Rajya Sabha members.
The Congress said on Monday that it was prepared to accept every reasonable solution on the GST Bill but added that the consultations are still on.
“We are prepared to accept every reasonable solution which does not adversely affect business and industry, and does not adversely affect the federal structure and the consumer at large,” Congress spokesman P.L. Punia told reporters.
Noting that the GST is very important for the economy, industry, business and also for the consumers, he said: “We agree with that objective in mind. It is the Congress party which mooted the idea of GST, which was opposed by the BJP and especially the present Prime Minister, Narendra Modi.”
“We had raised certain valid issues and the negotiations are still on.”
The GST Bill, first mooted by the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, envisions a pan-India GST to thoroughly overhaul India’s indirect tax regime. It has been already passed by the Lok Sabha.
The states will draft their own State GST (SGST) bills based on the draft model law with minor variations, incorporating state-specific exemptions.
The Centre and the states will also have to approve the integrated GST law or iGST, which will deal with inter-state movement of goods. The constitution amendment bill needs to be ratified by more than half of the states.