NEW DELHI: Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi, the two top leaders of the Congress, today told NDTV that for their party, “three issues” on the Goods and Services Tax or GST bill were non-negotiable.
Speaking exclusively to NDTV, the two leaders also countered Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s assertion that he had spoken to every Congress leader on GST.
“The finance minister came and called on us separately to give us his daughter’s wedding invitation. It was a personal call,” the Gandhis said to questions on Mr Jaitley visiting them.
The Congress leaders listed the issues that they said the main opposition party would not compromise on – the 1% tax for manufacturers, the constitutional cap of 18 percent for GST rate and an independent dispute resolution mechanism for GST.
“Unless the government responds on this we will not compromise,” they said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told NDTV on Wednesday evening that he is optimistic that GST, billed as the biggest tax reform measure since independence, will be passed in this session. “Consensus can be built through discussion…numbers are with the GST bill, most parties support it,” Mr Jaitley told NDTV.
Responding to Rahul Gandhi’s charge that the government had not reached out to the opposition on the important measure, Mr Jaitley said, “I have spoken to every Congress leader on GST in the last session. I have spoken in detail to leaders in Congress parliamentary party.”
Mr Gandhi had, in response to questions about his party blocking the reform, said: “Do we want the GST? Are we ready to compromise on GST? Are we ready to talk on GST? Absolutely. Are we going to accept just being thrown aside, no.”
The government needs the Congress’ support to push the bill through the Rajya Sabha or Upper House, where it is in a minority.
It wants to implement GST by April 2016, but the deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the bill in the winter session.
The GST will create a single market in India after doing away with state levies and is expected to boost the economy.