We need bipartisan cooperation on GST


It is unfortunate that a vital reform needed by the economy is being held hostage to politicking between the government and the Opposition. The goods and services tax (GST) enjoys bipartisan support in principle, although operational consensus has eluded the tax over two terms of the UPA government, thanks essentially to stonewalling by the BJP. Now, the Congress is playing the same game. It should not. It should cooperate with the government in getting the constitutional amendment passed and, more importantly, in implementing the new tax in the states where it runs the government and where it is the principal Opposition.

The BJP is not helping matters by insisting on a deadline for passing the Bill that has little to do with legislative dynamics. If the Congress wants the amended GST Bill to be reviewed by a committee of legislators drawn from all parties, and is amenable to making that review time-bound, there is little harm in the ruling side acceding to that demand. There are provisions in the Bill, such as the 1% central sales tax that is to continue for at least two more years, which are eminently objectionable. If a multiparty consensus can create a better framework for such a vital change in the country’s taxation structure, there is no harm in deferring the Bill to the next session of the legislature just a couple of months away. Accommodation will help, rather than confrontation.

The Congress must understand that the public at large can distinguish between genuine desire to scrutinise the amended Bill and eagerness to do unto the BJP what the BJP had done to the Congress when its government was trying to push GST through the political system. Getting back at the BJP might be a legitimate goal for the Congress, but do not expect the public at large to have any sympathy for such a move. Voters want to see political parties play a constructive role in taking the economy forward. They will dislike Congress obstructionism just as much as BJP high-handedness. And they are the final arbiters, in our democracy.

Source: The Economic Times

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