As the “mother of all reforms”, the bill on the goods and services tax (GST), heads for the Rajya Sabha, the main opposition Congress is geared to send it to a standing committee of the house.
The Congress, which walked out of the Lok Sabha when the bill was passed, has said it wants the bill to be further scrutinised.
“We want to send the GST bill for further scrutiny,” Congress leader Rajeev Shukla told IANS.
“It is a constitution amendment bill and has to be taken seriously. We have no problem with the bill otherwise. Let a panel look into it and then it can get passed in the monsoon session (in July-August),” Shukla said.
However, apart from the Left, no other party appears to be supporting the Congress on this.
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal said they were in favour of the bill as the Uttar Pradesh state government has already given its nod to the bill. “Our state government has agreed to the bill, so we will not oppose it,” Agarwal told IANS.
Trinamool Congress Derek O’Brien said his party was opposed to the panel route as this would further delay the bill.
“GST will safeguard the interest of the states,” O’Brien told IANS.
Communist Party of India-Marxist leader Sitaram Yechury, however, said the party has no problem if the bill is referred to a select committee.
“More time is needed to understand the constitution amendment bill,” Yechury told IANS.
As for the numbers game, the BJP is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, with just 47 members. With its allies, the number goes upto 63.
The Congress has 68 members, its allies taking the number to 70.
The government needs two-third majority, with atleast half the members present in the house for the measure to go through.
Among the other opposition parties, the TMC, BJD and Janta Parivar members SP, JD-U, and RJD support the bill, taking the numbers to 112.
In a house of 245, the government needs 164 votes to get the bill through – and the numbers thus don’t stack up favourably for the BJP.
Government sources, meanwhile, said informal talks were underway with opposition parties and the bill will be sent to a panel only of there is no other option.
“We need a two-thirds majority for the bill. Lets see how the numbers work out,” a minister told IANS, speaking on condition of anonymity.
He added that Congress is unnecessarily politicising the issue.
“They keep saying it is their bill, why is this opposition then? They are just trying to stall the government’s reforms,” the minister added.
The bill is seen as the key to facilitating industrial growth and improving the country’s business climate.
By subsuming most indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments such as excise duty, service tax, VAT and sales tax, the goods and services tax regime proposes to facilitate a common market across the country, leading to economies of scale and reducing inflation through an efficient supply chain.
The government wants to implement the new regime before April 2016.
Passage of the bill to become a law is, however, a lengthy process. Being a constitution amendment bill, which has cleared the Lok Sabha, it needs to be passed by the Rajya Sabha with a two-thirds majority and then ratified by at least 15 state legislatures before being sent for the president’s assent.