The goods and services tax (GST) bill appears heading towards a no-win situation as the opposition Congress was not open to negotiation despite the government on Wednesday making a fresh push to get it passed in Parliament.
The Narendra Modi government, which is under pressure to put its reforms agenda on track, termed the GST that would bring a uniform market across the country as a major growth and development booster.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley explained in the Lok Sabha how different states would benefit under a common tax regime.
“Consuming states will benefit if some colleagues who are not present today allow me to implement the GST. Odisha and also the entire eastern region will be a beneficiary,” he said, referring to the opposition parties which have boycotted Parliament following the suspension of 25 Congress MPs for unruly behaviour.
Later, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu took it from where Jaitley had left. “The country badly needs the GST. If the GST bill is passed, the economy can grow by an additional 2-3%.”
But the Congress held its ground, ruling out any communication for a possible patch-up, a source said.
Leaders of regional parties who tried to broker peace also returned empty-handed as the Congress refused to promise discipline in the House.
Congress leaders felt there was no need to pass the tax reforms bill in a hurry. “Heavens will not fall if it is brought in the winter session of Parliament. After all, the UPA government missed two deadlines.”
As predicted, the monsoon session of Parliament is headed for disaster. The entire Tuesday was lost to backchannel talks as no party took the initiative to get the suspension of Congress MPs revoked.
Congress managers said they were “enjoying the martyrdom status” and the government, too, did little to ease the stalemate.
“Had the suspension been revoked on Wednesday, it would have brightened hopes for the GST,” a Congress leader said amid reports that the government could try to bring the bill in the Rajya Sabha, possibly next Monday.