Former Union minister Anand Sharma says GST will eventually happen, refuses to give a timeline on the bill’s passage
New Delhi: The Congress party on Saturday said its demand for inclusion of 18% tax cap in the GST bill did not mean it is “non-negotiable” but refused to give a timeline on its passage, saying such important legislations “cannot be rushed through”.
“We have never used the word non-negotiable. We felt there is a need for a cap. There is need for ring-fencing it and an absolute guarantee that it will not be tinkered with…” Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told Karan Thapar on India Today TV. “From what I gather, the Congress president did not use the word non-negotiable, but made it very clear that we would like to have it.”
His comments came a day after former commerce and industry minister Kamal Nath said BJP’s hesitation to put an 18% cap in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the Constitution is a “sticking point” in thrashing out a solution.
Sharma, a former Union commerce minister, said the GST bill will “eventually happen” but refused to give a time-frame when asked whether the measure will become a reality in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.
“No, I can’t say that. You do not rush through such important Constitutional amendments. We would like to see the amendments in-built with the GST Bill. Where is the GST Bill? It is still work in progress… Why should we rush through. Let’s see,” he said, insisting that Congress would like to see government’s proposal on suggestions made by it on the key reform measure.
Asked if there were any hopes of its passage in Winter Session, Sharma said, “If there is a consensus. It is good. We want the GST. Let me make it clear that we will support GST.” He said “we have to give the country a GST, an effective GST that creates a common market and brings down the transaction cost”.
Leader of Opposition In Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told CNN-IBN, “We cannot give a timeline and particular date. The ball is in government’s court. It depends on how much they address the concerns of the principal opposition party and other major parties as well.”
On the issue of putting the 18% cap in the Constitution amendment, he insisted on “some legislative binding” on the government so that it cannot change the tax cap through an executive order. He at the same time appeared open to some other ‘credible alternative’ to address the issue. PTI