Nitish backs centre on GST, pressure mounts on Cong


NEW DELHI: Bihar chief minister, JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar, on Tuesday came out in support of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), intensifying the pressure on his coalition partner Congress to reconsider its opposition to the landmark reform measure or at least finesse its stand.

The GST bill came up for discussion in Kumar’s meeting with finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday and the leaders appear to have reached common ground even as the government hopes that the legislation will be passed in the current session of Parliament.

“We have always supported the GST. We supported it during the UPA and support it now. This is in the interest of the country and states. Our party fully supports it,” Kumar told the media after the meeting.

The Bihar CM announced his support for GST after his meeting with Jaitley, joining the ranks of other non-NDA parties Trianmool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party which have come out in the open to support the reforms measure. During the meeting, Kumar is understood to have sought release of funds under the backward region grant and financial support for a student card the state government is planning.
 The CM’s support for the legislation is important for the NDA, which has launched yet another round of discussions with CMs and regional parties in a bid to ensure the bill’s passage in Rajya Sabha, where it lacks majority. Most regional parties have agreed to support the bill, but a fresh outreach is underway even as the government’s negotiations with Congress — the main opponent to the legislation in its current form — seem delicately poised.

The government is considering options to meet the Congress’ demand that a tax rate of 18 per cent be “ring-fenced” if it cannot be made part of the constitutional amendment required for the tax reform. Opinion in Congress is still divided but the final call will be that of party vice-president Rahul Gandhi who has indicated that the rate is the real sticking point.

Kumar’s support will be significant as it can be expected to shore up sentiments in non-NDA, non-UPA parties like SP, BJD, Trinamool Congress and even AIADMK that continue to have some reservations on the bill.


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