NEW DELHI: The government is set to aggressively push the Constitution amendment bill for implementing goods and services tax (GST) in the monsoon session of Parliament as it looks to roll out the long-awaited tax reform from April.
“We will look to introduce the bill on the first day itself and ask for a vote,” said a senior government functionary, reflecting the assessment in ruling circles that Congress, sobered by fresh electoral setbacks, may not wish to play deal-breaker and risk isolation on the legislation which has the support of other non-BJP players.
“All parties other than Congress are supporting GST and even Congress chief ministers are in favour of it,” said a top government source, adding that the Centre was confident of successfully pushing the legislation through Rajya Sabha. Encouraged by BJP’s victory in Assam, the government is set to give the GST bill a determined shot in the monsoon session.
“Ideally, we would like to pass it with the support of Congress. It is a Constitution amendment bill and so it is desirable that all are on board. However, we don’t mind doing it without them if it comes to that,” a source told TOI.
Congress, which conceived the bill, is pressing for three amendments in the fresh version of the legislation -incorporating the GST rate in the Constitution amendment bill, a dispute resolution panel headed by a former SC judge and doing away with the 1 per cent additional levy for ‘manufacturing’ states. Although the government is willing to drop the additional levy, it has rejected the other two proposals.
The matter has acquired urgency for the government as April 2017 is seen as the last window for rolling out GST as the government may like to be done with the long-pending reform measure well ahead of the next LS polls due in 2019. For GST to be implemented from next April, the government will have to enact the central GST legislation once the Constitution amendment bill is cleared by Parliament and state legislatures.
Last week saw BJP members interpreting Congress’s electoral setbacks as “punishment” for its “politics of obstructionism”. West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s support for GST has also buoyed them, sparking optimism that CMs of other ‘consuming’ states, such as Bihar, Odisha, Kerala and UP , will also back the GST bill since they stand to gain through higher tax collection. “We have discussed the issue with several members in Congress, including Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh,” the source said.
Sources said the Congress argument on capping GST rate in the bill was flawed as it reduced government’s flexibility to tweak rates during a crisis. Even the idea of putting the rates in the central GST legislation is something the government is not comfortable with. “You can’t have the same rate for a BMW car and hawai chappal,” the source said.