Ahead of the crucial meeting of Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers with finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday that may bring out some clarity on government’s strategy on Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and whether it will push the Bill without addressing the three concerns of the Congress party, India Inc on Monday said that the issues being raised by Congress are purely political and that they should reconsider their stand in the broader national interest.
While Congress (the single-largest party in the Rajya Sabha) had made three demands — to abolish the proposed 1 per cent additional entry tax to benefit the manufacturing states; set up an independent GST dispute settlement authority chaired by a judge and 18 per cent cap on the GST rate to be specified in the Constitution, the government has indicated that it is willing to consider the first two demands.
Naushad Forbes, president, Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), said that the industry wants GST to become a reality and it is fine with the Bill in both forms — with or without 18 per cent cap on the GST rate being specified in the Constitution.
“I think the objections raised by Congress are purely political as the government has shown its intent to agree on two of their demands … The only issue is the point relating to putting a cap on 18 per cent tax rate either by incorporating it in Constitution or through some via medium in the Bill so that it can be amended by Parliament. I still think that if Congress wants the Bill to be passed, things can still be worked out and a solution can be arrived at. They should not hold it for political reasons,” said Forbes.
Voicing similar views, RC Bhargava, chairman, Maruti Suzuki India, said that Congress must look at the larger national interest as it is not a political but a national issue. He went ahead to say that if Congress wants it can put the cap on GST rate in Constitution at a later date.
“I can’t understand why the whole nation should not get the benefit of GST just because of this argument on imposing a constitutional cap on 18 per cent tax rate … It can always be put in Constitution by the Congress at a later date when they have the numbers to do so but don’t hold it up now as it is something that will benefit the entire nation,” said Bhargava.
He also pointed out that in most of the countries there is no such cap on GST rate specified in the Constitution and hence Congress should reconsider this demand especially when the government is looking to agree on their other two demands.
Last week, The Indian Express reported that a large number of regional parties barring J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK and Mayawati’s BSP, adding up to 82 members in Rajya Sabha, fully support the government’s GST legislation. A look into the views of almost all parties with more than two members in Rajya Sabha showed that along with the BJP’s 53 MPs, those who support the Bill account for over 55 per cent of the currently 243-member strong Upper House — two seats are vacant.