The Congress also formally decided to accept the government’s invitation for further negotiations.
NEW DELHI: The Congress leadership will have “an open mind” in discussing NDA government’s alternative proposals on the contentious issue of capping the GST rate “provided the fresh proposal offers a credible and legal shield to the rate against arbitrary alteration,” a meeting of the top leaders of the party, including the Gandhis and Manmohan Singh decide on Wednesday.
The Congress also formally decided to accept the government’s invitation for further negotiations. Soon after the meeting, finance minister Arun Jaitley called up the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, offering a meeting with Congress nominees at their convenience at the latter’s office
The meeting may take place on Thursday or Friday, sources said. The budget session of Parliament begins next Monday. The government side has two proposals to offer to the Congress which has been demanding the rate cap be fixed in the main Constitution amendment bill itself.
The government, instead, is mooting the idea of fixing the rate cap in the supporting central GST bill or, in the subordinate rules section of the main bill, saying either can ensure “legally ring-fencing of the GST rate” while providing scope for changing the rate in case of emergencies.
The Congress has been insisting that such a rate change should be done “only with the consent of Parliament.” While rate cap in the Constitution amendment bill would require a two-thirds majority of those present and voting in the Lok Sabha for further amendment (which government thinks is too rigid to meet emergency situations), a rate cap in the Central GST Bill can be amended with a simple majority vote in the Lok Sabha.
“At a Congress meeting attended by Congress president, vicepresident, Manmohan Singh, Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Mallikarjun Kharge, we have decided to accept the government’s proposal to resume negotiations on GST. The Congress side will approach the talks with an open mindand without rigidity and the outcome would depend on the merit of the proposal the government makes,” said a party source.