Arun Jaitley, however, expressed hope that the Constitution amendment bill needed for GST’s implementation may get passed soon
New Delhi: Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday appeared resigned to the possibility that the goods and services tax (GST) will miss its 1 April 2016 deadline.
“I would like to see GST being implemented by 1 April 2016 but if this kind of obstructionism remains, then perhaps the Congress party will succeed in hurting India’s economy and delaying it for some time,” said Jaitley at the Economist India Summit 2015 in New Delhi.
A delay in the rollout of one of India’s most ambitious tax reforms is likely to further dent the image of the Narendra Modi government, already hurt by its decision to back down on land reforms in the face of opposition.
Jaitley, however, expressed hope that the Constitution amendment bill needed for GST’s implementation may get passed soon.
“GST is now being almost supported by everybody. Even the objections being raised, I don’t see much substance in it. It is only a matter of time since its passed,” he said.
GST aims to remove barriers among states and unify the country into a common national market. It will subsume all indirect taxes levied by the Centre and the states.
The government has been struggling to bring on board the Congress party to support the Constitution amendment bill in the Rajya Sabha where it is short of numbers. It has also been considering bringing in a special session of Parliament but with Congress reiterating that it will support GST bill only subject to it’s recommendations being met, it may not help in meeting the deadline.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata party is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha where it has only 48 members in a 245-member house. To get the Constitution amendment bill passed, the government needs a two-third majority, for which the support of Congress party with its 68 members is crucial.
Jaitley also said that the numbers in the Rajya Sabha will soon change with elections due in April 2016 in the upper house.
Communications minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman are also attending the summit, besides industry leaders including Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman, Aditya Birla Group, Rahul Bajaj, chairman, Bajaj Auto and head of Bajaj Group and Prashant Ruia, group chief executive, Essar Group.