Finance minister Arun Jaitley says he is ready to meet top opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, to get GST bill passed.
NEW DELHI: Finance minister Arun Jaitley has said that he is open to meeting top opposition leaders, including Rahul Gandhi, to resolve a parliamentary deadlock over the proposed goods-and-services tax (GST).
The Modi government is ready to compromise on some demands from the Congress party that don’t imperil the overall structure of the proposed tax, Jaitley said in an interview. He called the opposition “obstructionist” for blocking a vote, and for portraying the government as intolerant toward minorities.
“We are willing to speak to any of their leaders,” Jaitley said. Asked if that includes Rahul Gandhi, Jaitley said: “Certainly. Why not.”
“I would try and persuade them to have it cleared now, as soon as possible, because it is going to be one of the most important reforms in India,” he said.
“Since it is a constitutional amendment and it will stand the test of time, I don’t want to create an architecture which is faulty, and some of their suggestions could hurt that architecture,” Jaitley said when asked if he would compromise. “But if there is something which doesn’t hurt the architecture but it strengthens the GST architecture, I am certainly willing to look at it.”
Jaitley said the bill would have passed if Congress allowed a vote. “The merits are unquestionably conceded to by all.”
He added that he’s willing to speak to anyone who disagrees with him. “Anyone in the government can speak to people — there’s no difficulty at all,” he said. “So far, we have been speaking to the more accessible section of the Congress Party.”
The tax would whittle down more than a dozen state levies to create a single market among the country’s 1.2 billion people for the first time. PM Narendra Modi has set an April 2016 deadline for its implementation.
Congress is opposed to talks on GST until the government “creates a cordial atmosphere,” K V Thomas, a member of the Lok Sabha and former minister, said over phone.
“For any economic development, the social situation should be stable,” Thomas said. “They have created a vicious situation in the country purposefully.”