Sonia Gandhi calls meet to chart Congress course on GST bill


Meeting key to second round of talks between Congress and BJP-led govt to iron out differences on proposed tax reform.

New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi has called a meeting of senior party leaders on Sunday evening to discuss its strategy on the goods and services tax (GST) bill, which has been stalled by political bickering.

The meeting is key to a second round of talks between the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government to iron out differences on the proposed tax reform.

“Sonia Gandhi has called for a meeting of senior leaders at her residence on Sunday evening in which the future course of action on GST will be decided,” a senior Congress member of Parliament said on condition of anonymity.

“A meeting with the government can happen only after that, but there is no certainty or even talks on a possible date for it right now,” the person said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on 1 December for talks on various issues related to the winter session of Parliament, including the GST bill.

It was decided in the meeting that the Congress would discuss the issue internally, following which another meeting with the government could take place.

The clock is ticking on the winter session of Parliament which is scheduled to conclude on 23 December.

“We want GST to pass, we are open to discussion (and) are looking at arriving at a consensus over the GST Bill,” a senior BJP leader, who didn’t want to be named, said.

According to a news report by the Press Trust of India, senior Congress leader and former commerce minister Anand Sharma acknowledged that the government had held informal talks with him and Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha and a senior Congress politician.

“We are for GST. It is still a work in progress and we need to take a fair and considered view and not to rush it through as it has far reaching impact on our taxation,” Sharma told PTI.

The winter session, which began on an optimistic note with the meeting between Modi and Gandhi, has been marred by a political clash between the BJP and Congress, which has distracted attention from the GST bill.

On a visit to Assam, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi also spoke up on the GST issue.

“As far as the stalemate in Parliament is concerned, an impression is being given that we (Congress) are not interested on the GST issue. We have told the government that we have differences with them on three issues,” he told reporters in Guwahati.

The three issues are: doing away with a proposed additional 1% levy on the supply of goods that will be levied over and above GST and is considered distortionary; capping of the GST rate at 18% and its inclusion in the constitutional amendment bill; and creation of an independent dispute resolution mechanism.


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