Prime Minister Narendra Modi with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
The Congress on Wednesday bluntly told the Narendra Modi government that the GST bill cannot be passed without its support until its concerns needed to be taken on board while blaming Mr Modi for blocking the bill for three years single-handedly when he was the Gujarat chief minister.
This was made it clear by the main Opposition amid talk of a special session of Parliament. The Congress is not the only party opposing this bill. The AIADMK and the Left too have strong reservations to it. On the other hand, the JD(U) cannot afford to be friendly with the government ahead of the crucial Bihar Assembly polls.
The government managers cannot bring the arch rivals — the Samajwadi Party and the BSP — together in the Rajya Sabha on this bill. The Congress has 68 members while the Left has 10 and the BSP 10. If the government manages the AIADMK (12) then the DMK (4) cannot support the government on this bill. This applies to the Mayawati-led party as it cannot vote with the rival Samajwadi Party. This means over 90 members in the House of 245 would oppose this bill under one pretext or the other. Moreover, the constitution amendment bill cannot be passed in a joint sitting of Parliament.
The Congress has also hit back at finance minister Arun Jaitley, saying that he has no moral authority to attack the Opposition on stalling the measure issue given the fact that Narendra Modi had “single-handedly sabotaged” it for three years when he was Gujarat CM.
“In politics, there is a thought and an afterthought,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh told reporters, taking a dig at Mr Jaitley who had called the Congress reservations to the GST in its present form as an “afterthought”.
“BJP, Narendra Modi and Yashwant Sinha (who was chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on finance in the last Lok Sabha) are responsible for the delay in GST,” Mr Ramesh said.
Mr Ramesh said that as Union minister he had himself gone to Gandhinagar in September 2012 and had met Mr Modi to garner support of the BJP to the measure, but Mr Modi had “single-handedly sabotaged” it.
“GST at that time came to be known as Gujarat Sabotage Tax,” he said, taking a dig at Mr Modi.
Dismissing suggestions that the Congress was isolated on the GST issue, he said the Left parties and the AIADMK and the DMK were also opposed to the measure. He said what the Congress wanted is a “good and simple tax” which the one proposed by the government is not.
A meeting of the parliamentary select committee which went into GST had seen over a fortnight back senior officials of Gujarat opposing the measure, committee sources said, adding that one per cent additional tax is being proposed to placate Gujarat. Mr Ramesh said that his party was not aware of any special session of Parliament being called as it has not been taken into confidence so far.
The Congress – which had initiated the GST Bill in 2006 – is strongly opposed to it in the present form and is insisting on three key amendments, including capping the tax at 18 per cent and removing the one per cent additional tax. Finance Minister has ruled out incorporating these changes.
The government is keen on meeting the April 1, 2016 deadline for the implementation of the landmark tax system that would arguably increase the country’s GDP by one to 1.5 per cent. After both Houses of Parliament clear the constitutional amendment, half of the states will have to pass it.