Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
NEW DELHI: The government is looking at scheduling a four-hour discussion in Parliament on Monday on the Goods and Services Tax bill, billed as the biggest ever tax reform legislation. Ahead of the discussion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has initiated hour-long tutorial running through all five days of this week to address the concern of the MPs and explain to them the intricacies of the bill.
The tutorial for members of both Houses has been arranged with the help of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to “educate” them on the importance of GST and how it will contribute to India’s economy.
The government has brought in tax experts that include former chairman of Central Board of Excise and Customs S D Majumder, Prof Kavita Rao of National Institute of Public Finance and Policy and two commissioner-level officers of CBEC to explain to the MPs what the bill is all about.
The government needs support from a two-third majority in both Houses for the passage of the Constitution amendment bill, which will also require ratification by at least half of the states. However, the bill is yet to be introduced in Rajya Sabha with the Congress taking a belligerent stand over court summons issued to party president Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald case.
Earlier, the NDA government had accepted a major demand of Congress on keeping the rates below 18%. The government is still hopeful of getting the bill tabled and finding support from all major parties. But it can hardly afford isolating Congress on this important piece of legislation.
In a conciliatory tone, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday said, “It’s extremely important and all parties must come together. Now that revenue neutral rate of 15% has been announced which was not even discussed…people were discussing 22-24%.” The FM, however, cautioned that any attempt to create any hurdle would amount to damaging the interests of the country.
The FM said Congress must help in passage of the bill as it was originally an initiative started by the UPA party.
The PM had earlier held a meeting with Congress President Sonia Gandhi and his predecessor Manmohan Singh to break the ice on GST and discuss the opposition party’s suggested changes in the bill.