Though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi have broken the ice—in a meeting apparently suggested by former prime minister Manmohan Singh—it is still not clear if the Congress will support the GST Bill; certainly the aggression shown by Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi suggests the compromise won’t be easy, though the BJP can certainly agree to one of the Congress party’s demands, that on the 1% additional tax. The BJP will, of course, use Dr Singh to try and persuade the Congress party that its other two demands are best dropped. But now that the two sides are talking to each other—Prime Minister Modi has been careful not to rise to any Opposition name-calling in the debate on the Constitution or on intolerance—it is time to push this to its logical conclusion, whatever the Congress finally decides on GST. There are several Bills on which there is not too much difference between the Congress and the BJP, and certainly these need to be passed at the earliest. Among those listed by the Business Advisory Committee of the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passing include the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill 2015, and the Whistle Blowers Protection (Amendment) Bill 2015. Other legislative business to be taken up in the upper house include the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill 2015, the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill 2013, the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill 2012, and also the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill 2015. The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill 2013, on which the Rajya Sabha select committee recommendations have come, is also listed for passage.
Perhaps the most important, which the government has been talking about for the past few months, is the Bankruptcy Bill. This is critical since, despite several laws to make it easier for creditors to secure their rights, borrowers manage to get stay orders from various courts, and the result is there for all to see—while more than a tenth of all bank loans are dodgy, there is no single case that can be cited of a bank being able to take over a company in default quickly and sell it off to recover debt. Given the Congress party is aware of the seriousness of the problem, and that it will be impossible for banks to resume a faster pace of lending till this is resolved, getting this through Parliament is of utmost importance. While the GST Bill is important in terms of what it does to push the reforms process, the recent cessation of hostilities has to go beyond pushing just this Bill—indeed, since parties have not taken entrenched positions on the other Bills, getting them passed may be easier.