Congress has issued a whip to all its MPs to be present in Lok Sabha tomorrow where GST Constitutional Amendment Bill is scheduled to be taken up for passage, party leader and chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia said on August 7. While Congress has extended support to the bill, the party leader said it is important for the government to identify the maximum rate of the tax in some manner. “We are supporting Constitutional Amendment Bill. That is on the merit of it. GST is something important for the country. The party will support the bill with the amendments which the ruling party has assured us,” Scindia said.
The 66-year-old Constitution, which gives power to the Centre to levy taxes like excise, and empowers states to collect retail sales taxes, was amended though the 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill on Wednesday. The Bill amends the Constitution to introduce the Goods and Services Tax (GST)–one nation one tax regime. “We have issued whip to ensure presence of all the members of Lok Sabha of Congress party,” he told PTI. He said Congress was the first to give the idea of GST.
“Our former Finance Minister P Chidambaram had in his budget speech given the concept for a nationwide uniform tax. The government then introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill on GST in 2011 Budget session, but BJP could not build consensus for four long years. As a result that Bill eventually lapsed. “The NDA government later picked up the matter and got it passed last year by Lok Sabha, where it enjoys majority. As the NDA government did not believe in the essence of democracy, which is dialogue and consensus, it was pending for long. When they realised that it was mandatory for them to have a dialogue then they redrafted it and put before Rajya Sabha which then passed it,” Scindia said.
The Upper House approved the legislation with certain official amendments, mainly to address Congress’ three objections to it, on Wednesday with 203 members voting in favour and none against, after a seven-hour debate during which a rare bonhomie was witnessed among the ruling and the opposition parties. “We want the nation to be benefited by the GST. After all, it was Congress only that had mooted this. We would like to pass it through but would like to ensure that its benefit reaches masses and to the country as well,” the Lok Sabha member from Madhya Pradesh’s Guna said.
Congress had earlier demanded that the overall GST rate be capped at 18 per cent and additional one per cent tax for compensating the manufacturing states be scrapped. The party had also wanted a dispute resolution mechanism in the proposed law. The Goods and Services Tax is a single indirect tax which will subsume among others most of the central and state taxes such as Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duty, service tax, central sales tax, additional customs duty and special additional duty of customs.