Sonia Gandhi out of country, GST bill negotiations delayed


With Congress president Sonia Gandhi out of the country and negotiations still on, resolution of differences between the government and the Opposition on the goods and services tax bill is unlikely before the second week of December.

The Congress said on Monday that Gandhi was travelling to the US for a routine medical check-up and would return within a week. Government sources indicated there was no hurry to complete the negotiations on the bill before that.

“The current session is scheduled till December 23. We have some time in hand to pass the bill,” a senior minister said. Back-channel talks between the treasury and Opposition benches may continue during the week.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the Congress, whose support is crucial to pass the 122nd Constitution amendment bill to roll out the tax, when he invited his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Gandhi for tea at his residence last Friday.

The Congress cancelled its weekly strategy meeting on Monday morning in the absence of the party president.

From the government’s side, sources indicated the Centre was inclined to revisit the 1% exit tax applied to manufacturing states. “We agree that it’s against the GST concept of levying taxes at the destination,” a senior leader said.

On the other two issues flagged by the Congress — capping the GST rate at 18% and an independent grievance redress mechanism — there hasn’t been any forward movement. The government is waiting for the Congress to come back with its views.

Meanwhile, Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati announced her support for the GST but not before taking digs at the government for inviting only the Congress for negotiations. “You will not need to offer even a cup of tea or a glass of water to me for this,” she said while announcing her support.

Mayawati justified her stand by saying her party would back the government if the latter worked for the development of the nation and the welfare of all sections of society.


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