GST stalled: Is Congress really at fault or a half-hearted attempt by BJP to clear the legislation


New Delhi, August 13: The much awaited constitution-amendment bill to incorporate the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the revenue structure was obstructed from passing in the Rajya Sabha. Government has successfully emerged as the victim at the end of the uproarious Monsoon Session. The general perception among readers around the nation is that Congress played the role of antagonist in providing legislative clearance to the tax reformation bill. However, without analysing the role of the government, would it be just to wholly blame the primary opposition for stalling the GST?

The intelligentsia and our economists have reached consensus on the necessity of GST. Across parties, a mutual agreement is on the fact that the indirect tax regime should be amended and replaced with a robust mechanism which would be provided by GST. However, the efforts of government appear sincere only from a superficial point of view. Instead of publicizing and projecting it as the energy-boosting factor of our economy, the government should had reached out to the Opposition and tried to bring all political parties on board, at least the non-political opponents.

The seriousness of a constitution amendment measure would have reflected if the honourable Prime Minister himself attended the House or made considerable efforts outside the Parliament to bring non-Congress opponents on the same page. Far from initiating such efforts, he switched back into his pre-election role of delivering amusing poll rhetoric. While his cabinet members were struggling to transact business in the House, he was busy leading BJP’s election campaign in Bihar.

Further inspection reveals that GST was not included in the list of things approved by Business Advisory Committee of the House. Home Minister Rajnath Singh and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have repeatedly uttered outside the Parliament that the bill should first pass and if there are adverse effects, it could be amended later.

Wouldn’t had it been wiser to address the Left and Congress who have opposed the bill due to the inclusion of following two provisions: The introduction of 1 per cent additional tax on interstate sales. According to Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M), “The move will nullify the objective of simplifying the tax regime, since it would once again impose a cascading form of duty on traders”. The second demand raised by Opposition is to impose a cap on the rate of tax to be imposed by GST. At present, the government has indicated towards levying it at 27 per cent. However, Congress has demanded the cap to be fixed at 20 per cent even if the Centre suffers loss, citing the fact that higher rate of interest would discourage small scale retailers from regularly paying their duty.

The concerns shown by Congress should have been paid heed to by the government, after all, the revolutionary taxing system was a brain child of UPA. Arun Jaitley had, rightfully, lambasted the Congress for wrecking country’s economic growth by obstructing the bill. But what moral grounds does BJP hold, after all, the the saffron party itself stalled the bill since it was introduced in 2010.

The special season of political soap-opera, as resembled by Monsoon Session, was concluded today. The antagonist Congress initially cornered the government, but the climax was when our ‘innocent’ external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj gave a ‘befitting reply’ satisfying the bhakts and leaving a lot for prime time news shows to discuss. At the end, it concluded as a fine game of politics. But, the economy suffered as usual.


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