Truce with Congress may allow Narendra Modi government to ensure passage of GST Bill

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NEW DELHI: A possible truce with the Congress may allow the government to ensure passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament, perhaps this week itself.

The Congress appears positively inclined after Finance Minister Arun Jaitley reached out to the party leadership over the weekend for ironing out differences over the proposed law.

There are indications that the Congress could give up its demand of referring the bill again to the standing committee.

In return, according to people privy to the negotiations, the government is likely to agree to detailed discussions in Parliament on the issues raised by the Opposition, which had staged a walkout when the bill was taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha on Friday and demanded that the bill be referred to a standing committee. The Congress leaders with whom Jaitley held talks over the weekend include the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad; his deputy, Anand Sharma; the party’s leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge; and Ahmed Patel, political secretary to party president Sonia Gandhi.

Jaitley has also been in touch with several other parties as well, including chief ministers Mamata Banerjee, J Jayalalithaa and Naveen PatnaikAfter the discussions, influential Congress leaders have toned down their opposition to the bill, saying that the new amendments reflect the unanimous suggestions made by the empowered committee of the state finance ministers (in consultation with their respective chief ministers), including those of Congress-ruled states.

This signals a shift from its earlier position, when the party opposed the new amendments, saying these were not there when the bill was earlier processed by the standing committee after its introduction.

Azad, according to the people cited earlier, will hold talks with Congress chief ministers or finance ministers of states before the bill comes up for voting so that the party “assures itself that the new amendments are in keeping with the interests of its supporters”.

The Congress leadership is consulting former finance minister P Chidambaram, among others, on the issue.

Source: Times of India

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