The Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government races against the clock to pass the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill —- often termed as a potential game-changer for the country’s economy — in the current monsoon session.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley has accused the Congress party of disrupting Parliament for “political reasons”. He further alleged that they are “upset with the electorate for their 2014 verdict”, and urged it to “seriously introspect” on its conduct.
“Should its obstructionist tendencies inflict an economic injury on the country,” the finance minister said in a scathing Facebook post.
Jaitley’s attack on the grand old party clearly shows that the NDA government is hardly expecting a breakthrough in it.
If the Constitution Amendment Bill does not get passed during the monsoon session, the chances of implementing the GST from April 1 next year will be bleak. In such a situation, the new indirect tax system would be in a place only a year later, that April 1, 2017, as such a taxation system cannot be implemented in the middle of a fiscal year.
Issuing a point by point reply on the dissent note given by the Congress in the select committee report on the constitution amendment bill, Jaitley pointed out that most of the changes proposed by the Congress were contrary to the stand taken by the Congress government in its previous stint at the centre.
Business tycoons have long appealed for the GST, arguing it would simplify interstate transactions, turn India into a single market and increase economic output.
In the 245-member Rajya Sabha, the NDA government has only 63 members and a constitution amendment bill can only be passed with the support of two-third of its members.
The GST is key to Prime Minister Modi’s promise of injecting investment and boost ease of doing business in the country because a single tax would come as a boon for industry, which has to often deal with multiple levies within the country.
The main purpose of the GST bill is a unified regime that will subsume most indirect taxes levied by the central and state governments such as excise duty, service tax, value added tax, sales tax and octroi to facilitate a common market across the country.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has rejected government’s offer of Prime Minister Modi’s intervention in the Lalit Modi and Vyapam controversies in Parliament to break the impasse, insisting that those responsible for “gross wrongdoings” should first resign.
Gandhi said the BJP had regularly disrupted Parliament and impeded the legislative progress when it was in opposition during the previous ten years of Congress rule. However, the logic is untenable, beyond a point.
There is no harm in delaying GST implementation by one more year to April 2017. Let the Congress scuttle the passage of the modified Bill accommodating the select committee’s suggestions in the Rajya Sabha. While the government will get one more year to prepare for the GST and finalising the contours of the biggest tax reform in the country besides holding further discussions on its flaws, the Congress party will have to take the responsibility for this delay in a critical reform measure, according to a report in the Financial Express.
The monsoon session precedes the crucial assembly elections in Bihar later this year and the Congress punctured the government’s plans to showcase its policy initiatives at the centre to win over voters in the state.