GST Bill: Centre wants T.N. on board


It doesn’t want a big State to be left out of a vital policy issue’

The Modi government wants Tamil Nadu on board for the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill meant to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The government is currently in hectic parleys with the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazahgam government in the State which gave a dissent note to the report of the Rajya Sabha Select Committee on the Bill. The panel, in its report tabled in Parliament on July 22, endorsed nearly all of the Bill’s clauses.

“It is not that the GST Bill can be taken through Parliament on the back of the AIADMK’s strength in the Rajya Sabha … we are dependent on the Congress in the Upper House, but the government doesn’t want a big State such as Tamil Nadu to be left out of such an important national policy issue,” an official source told The Hindu.

Apart from Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, another producer State, is not on board, but the government is confident that as it is ruled by the BJP, it will fall in line.

The government is pulling out all the stops to ensure that the GST Bill goes through in this session. “We are taking a beating in the international investors’ community for the delay in the passage of the GST legislation,” another official source said.

Its efforts, at the moment, are to ensure that Parliament can be extended beyond August 13, the scheduled date for closure of the current session, since the Congress is showing no signs of giving up its protests. “Parliament might have to be reconvened after Independence Day,” it said.

In an interview to a TV channel on Thursday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: “The Monsoon Session washout doesn’t mean the end of GST. The April 1, 2016 deadline is ideal for both States and Centre. The Congress must come to the negotiating table as it was its Bill. Politics is a process and there is no stalemate in democracy. Mere stubbornness can’t thwart the process.”

The government is engaged in back-channel talks with the Congress, top BJP sources say. “The problem with the GST Bill is that it can’t be done without the Congress,” Chairman of the Joint Committee of Parliament on Land Bill S.S. Ahluwalia said.

He indicated that all contentious issues would be removed from the Land Bill and the committee’s report would be tabled on August 11. Mr. Ahluwalia met Mr. Jaitley, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industries Nirmala Sitharaman and officials of the two Ministries to discuss the government’s strategy on the Bill at North Block on Thursday.

A source present at this meeting, however, clarified that there was no question of meeting the Congress demand for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj or any of the two BJP Chief Ministers, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.


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