Tax reforms: Govt to introduce GST Bill on first day of monsoon session

Govt banking on support from SP, JD(U), RJD, BJD, Trinamool as well as Left.

Written by Anand Mishra | New Delhi | Published: July 8, 2016 2:55 am
File photo of Members protest in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi. (Source: PTI) File photo of Members protest in the Lok Sabha in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

The government has decided to introduce the GST Bill on the first working day of the monsoon session of Parliament, in what could be a sign of its confidence that it can notch up the numbers for the long-pending legislation.

Earlier, the Bill was listed for business in the middle or end of the sessions in view of the apprehension that a confrontation with the Opposition could derail the other business agenda of the government.

“We will bring the GST Bill in the first week of the session. It will be taken up on the first working day of the House,” a Union minister said.

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Sources said that while the customary all-party meeting would happen on July 17, a day before the session begins, there were no plans of senior ministers calling on the top leadership of the Congress as the strategy did not work last time. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan will also meet leaders of all parties the same day. Besides, an NDA meeting is expected to firm up the ruling alliance’s strategy for the session.

“The GST is the priority Bill in the monsoon session. We will make all attempts to pass it and I am confident that we will be able to pass it in this session,” Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told The Indian Express.

Former Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had earlier called on Congress president Sonia Gandhi to try and soften the party’s stand on the Bill, an event which got media attention but brought only embarrassment to the government. As a reticent Ananth Kumar takes over the Parliamentary Affairs portfolio, the strategy this time is to hold one-on-one confabulations with floor leaders of various parties and keep the interactions away from the media glare, the sources said.

Immediately after taking charge, Kumar had a discussion with his deputy and ministry officials over government strategy. The government is pinning its hopes on support from non-NDA regional parties like the SP, JD(U), RJD, BJD, Trinamool Congress as well as the Left, and believes that the Congress will eventually decide not to block the legislation if the regional parties and Left back it.

The government is confident of the support of Left parties, even as the CPM leadership has distanced itself from its Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac’s unequivocal backing of the goods and services tax.

The CPM has called for an all-party meeting convened by the PM to discuss the issue and address the issue of compensating states, which could lose revenue due to GST.

“The Left will eventually back us, though they may press for certain amendments. We believe the Congress will also make its point in the House but will not obstruct the passage of the Bill,” said the Union minister.

The Centre also believes that a compromise formula can be worked out with the AIADMK. However, no such indication has appeared so far.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, that met on June 29, had recommended convening the monsoon session from July 18 to August 12. The session has a total of 20 sittings over a duration of 26 days.

At that time Naidu, the then Parliamentary Affairs Minister, had claimed there was a “broad consensus on the GST Bill with almost all state governments and political parties favouring it”.

The government prefers consensus on the Bill as it is a Constitution amendment Bill, but it is ready for a vote if the Congress insists on it.

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