Exuding confidence in getting the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill passed in the upcoming monsoon session, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Monday said regional parties, including UPA allies like DMK and NCP, are all in support of the tax legislation.
Stating that it would be extremely difficult for the Congress to take a contrarian view, he said if there is no consensus, the only alternative is a parliamentary vote.
“I am reasonably confident because… every political party, including the Congress, favours the GST. In fact, the Congress should have had the vision to support it more aggressively because they could claim the original authorship of the idea,” Mr. Jaitley said when asked if he was confident of passing the Bill in the monsoon session during an interaction with members of IWPC here.
“So, whether it is SP or BSP in Uttar Pradesh, JD(U) or RJD in Bihar, the Left in West Bengal and Kerala, the Trinamool in West Bengal, BJD…, each one of the UPA partners from DMK to NCP is making strong noises in support.”
He added that he is “reasonably confident” that when it comes to the crunch, “it would be extremely difficult even for the Congress party to take a contrarian view.”
The GST Bill, which has been approved by the Lok Sabha, is pending in the Rajya Sabha because of stiff resistance by the Congress, the largest party in the House, over a few proposals.
“I hope… the Congress party would revisit its position. I certainly would be keeping the discussions with them on. I always said my preference is a consensus must emerge because all state governments across political complexion has to implement it and therefore, consensus is the better way,” Mr. Jaitley said.
“And I do hope it moves in that direction. If consensus does not emerge, then the only other alternative is the parliamentary process. We will ask the Rajya Sabha and take a view on it.”
The Minister said the number count of all those that are supporting the GST shows that barring the AIADMK, which has some mixed voices, every other regional party has strong interest in passing the legislation because it helps these States.
Mr. Jaitley said he has spoken to the Chief Ministers of all States, including those ruled by the UPA and the Congress, and they are a “strong supporter” of the idea.
The Congress is opposing the Bill in the current form, demanding that a cap on GST rate be included in the Constitution Amendment Bill. The other two changes sought are removal of one per cent additional tax on inter-State transfer of goods and a Supreme Court judge-headed dispute resolution panel.
Mr. Jaitley said except for the additional inter-State tax, the GST Bill is verbatim of what the UPA had earlier proposed.
He expressed his willingness to consider the additional 1 per cent inter-State tax.
“… The rest of the GST Bill was verbatim the same what the UPA had introduced. And therefore, one has to analyse these after—thoughts. Now, the Parliamentary Standing Committee has approved it, the Rajya Sabha Select Committee has approved it, minus that 1 per cent…,” he said.
The GST Bill, India’s biggest indirect tax reform since Independence, seeks to replace a slew of central and state levies, with an aim to transform the nation of 1.3 billion people into a Customs union.
After it is approved by the Rajya Sabha, the legislation needs to be ratified by half of the 29 states for its rollout.
2015 Kashmir Despatch