Top Congress sources said the party would like the GST Bill to go through in the interest of the country, and was prepared to meet the government halfway.
With barely two weeks left for the Winter Session of Parliament to begin, the Congress is planning to join hands with like-minded opposition parties and force a vote on the FDI proposals on media and defence, hoping to defeat these on the floor of the House. As far as the GST Bill is concerned, top sources said there is room for compromise, provided the government reaches out to the Congress and engages in constructive dialogue. Top Congress sources said the party would like the GST Bill to go through in the interest of the country, and was prepared to meet the government halfway. The government, they said, would have to engage in a conversation and accept some of their demands. Senior leaders said the government tried to ride roughshod over the opposition on the land acquisition Bill and had to face the consequences, and hoped it would not employ the same method again.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has already said that he is willing to talk to the Congress, including its vice president Rahul Gandhi, to resolve the GST deadlock. But the Congress had said that the environment in the country was not conducive for talks between the government and the opposition. The Congress has eight objections to the GST Bill, but sources said the non-negotiables can be narrowed down to three or four — fixing of an 18 per cent ceiling rate to ensure that in pursuit of higher revenues the GST council desists from increasing the tax structure; scrapping of the proposal to levy an additional one per cent tax; inclusion of tobacco and tobacco products, alcohol for human consumption; and increasing the representation of states in the GST council to ensure that it is not unduly tilted in favour of the Centre. As far as the FDI proposals are concerned, the party will seek a vote when the FEMA notification effecting the changes in FDI policy in media and defence sectors announced by the Centre are tabled in Parliament. Sources said the Congress has already consulted the Left, JD(U) and Trinamool Congress. Senior party leader Anand Sharma said there is no national consensus on easing of FDI norms in these sectors. Sharma said the party cannot support the moves to remove the checks and balances. “We are for FDI, we are for FDI in defence also but we cannot have those checks removed in a sensitive sector like defence. We cannot have scrutiny and cabinet committee approval done away with,” he said. He said the UPA government had increased FDI in defence to 49 per cent, but had kept the condition on scrutiny by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) and approval of the Cabinet Committee of Security (CCS). “This government has dispensed with any FIPB scrutiny or CCS approval for FDI up to 49 per cent and put it under automatic route,” Sharma said. “Once the FDI policy decisions are made, it is mandatory that the RBI come up with a FEMA notification, which the government is obliged to table in both Houses. And Parliament alone would ratify those notifications, both Houses independently,” he added.