Congress dilutes stand on GST, says issue can be sorted out

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Union ministers Venkaiah Naidu, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and Smriti Irani come out of Prime Ministers office after Cabinet meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday.

Cong says scope for consensus if politics is kept away

As the government exuded confidence over having the numbers for passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, the Congress said there was tremendous room for consensus if a process of dialogue was started.

With the Congress adhering to its three demands– one per cent tax for manufacturers, constitutional cap of 18 per cent for GST rate and an independent dispute resolution mechanism– the BJP-led NDA was counting on other Opposition parties to back GST during the monsoon session beginning on July 18 and ending August 12.

he Congress, which had brought the GST in 2009, would find it difficult to entirely oppose the bill which has been hanging fire in Rajya Sabha, where the ruling side is in a minority. It has indicated that if the government took a step forward, it could also do the same.

“We have raised concerns about a few points in the bill. Once we have a discussion with the government, those issues can be sorted out. We are very much interested in getting the bill passed as it is in national interest. The ruling BJP should come a step forward and we can also move a step forward and there is tremendous room for consensus emerging. But then a process of dialogue should start. When you bring politics into national interest, that is when the trouble starts. Let us move beyond politics and think about national interest,”leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said.

After the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) met on Wednesday to finalise the dates of the session, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said there was a broad consensus on GST with most political parties and states backing it. He added that the government would prefer unanimous passage of the Constitution Amendment and would try to seek consensus before exploring “other options”.

“Our demands for amendments in the GST are for public interest. People are already heavily burdened with price rise and inflation. We want a cap on tax, and do not want the poor in the country to be taxed. Let me also make it clear,” Azad said.

Refuting that the Congress was to blame for stalling the bill, he said Rajya Sabha was never disrupted because of GST. “It never camp to Upper House, so there was no question of disrupting House on it. Let me remind, the House was disrupted on issues of Vyapam, issues of corruption and probity of ministers and chief ministers of BJP ruled states. One must know Modi blocked GST for three years,” the Congress leader said.

Naidu also said that GST was in larger national interest and that if some parties had some issues, government was keen to discuss the same.

In the 245-member House, a Constitution Amendment bill requires the support of 164 for its passage. The government, besides the NDA parties, is banking on support of around 15 Opposition parties, including the SP, Trinamool Congress, JD-U, BSP , BJD and NCP. Apart from this, it is hoping to get the support of the AIADMK, CPM and CPI with minor amendments. Along with five nominated members and four independents, this would mean support of 179 members. In this case, the GST would have the numerical backing even without Congress, which has 60 MPs in the Upper House. The government, could, however face the possibility of passing a Constitution Amendment bill amid din.

If the AIADMK with 13 MPs decides to abstain, the total strength of the House would come down to 232 and its two-third would be 155. Without AIADMK, the number on which government is pinning its hopes would be 166.

Besides GST, there are 45 bills pending in Rajya Sabha, of which the government has prioritised around ten.

NUMBER GAME

In the 245-member House, a Constitution Amendment bill requires the support of 164 for its passage. The government, besides the NDA parties, is banking on support of around 15 Opposition parties, including the SP, Trinamool Congress, JD-U, BSP , BJD and NCP. Apart from this, it is hoping to get the support of the AIADMK, CPM and CPI with minor amendments. Along with five nominated members and four independents, this would mean support of 179 members. In this case, the GST would have the numerical backing even without Congress, which has 60 MPs in the Upper House.

Source: DNA

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