Keen on breaking the parliamentary deadlock over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, the NDA governmentis scouring the file notings made by the UPA Finance Ministers pertaining to the Bill to come up with solutions to the three objections of the Congress. Top sources at the Finance Ministry told The Hindu that “some direction” to proceed could be gauged “from the Congress’s own grappling with the issue.”
“For example, the Congress has demanded that a grievance redress mechanism be set up, with retired judges helming it, to resolve disputes between the States and the Centre on the share of taxes. This could be addressed by empowering the GST council to try and resolve disputes or set up a streamlined mechanism,” said a senior source in the Ministry. This particular solution was “discovered” in the file notings of a UPA Minister. This is part of the set of options that the government will propose to the Congress as it starts negotiating a Bill that could clear both Houses of Parliament.
Setting up of a grievance redress mechanism is one of the three issues flagged by the Congress. The other two are a one percent cess on the manufacturing States and mentioning an 18 per cent cap on tax rates in the Bill itself.
“The other two issues are more complex, but we are committed to a differentiated rate of tax for essential and luxury goods,” the source said. The mentioning of a tax rate cap in the Bill itself is a “non-negotiable” point, according to the government, since any tax incentive or change will have to go through a cumbersome parliamentary process.
The government is waiting for Congress president Sonia Gandhi to return from a trip to the U.S. by week-end to start talks with the party. Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Nirmala Sitharaman, along with Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu, have been deputed to speak to Congress leaders, including Mallikarjun Kharge, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindhia.
Mr. Naidu said: “The meeting between the Prime Minister and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has been welcomed across the country. This demonstrates that people want co-operative democracy rather than confrontational politics.”
“For any good work done by the government, by way of passing legislation, the credit should go to both the Treasury and Opposition Benches,” he said, referring to the GST Bill.