A day after the Congress and other opposition parties asked the government not to classify two Bills — on the creation of Central GST (CGST) and Inter-State GST (IGST) — to roll out the Goods and Services Tax as money Bills, the main opposition party Thursday started a signature campaign to mount pressure on the government.
Sources said many top leaders of the opposition like NCP’s Sharad Pawar and CPM’s Sitaram Yechury had already signed the petition drafted by Jairam Ramesh. The letter, sources said, would be given to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley as part of a joint opposition strategy.
The opposition fears that the government will move the Bills as money Bills, which would only require a vote in the Lok Sabha.
Former finance minister P Chidambaram, Yechury and almost every other member of non-NDA parties had demanded an assurance from the Finance Minister during the discussion on the constitutional amendment Bill on Wednesday in the Rajya Sabha. They wanted Jaitley to assure the House that the Bills would be introduced as finance Bills, that would need to be debated and voted on in both Houses, and not as money Bills to avoid voting in Rajya Sabha where the government does not have majority.
Jaitley, however, did not give any such assurance, saying the Bills were yet to be drafted and the state governments were yet to make recommendations in this regard. Ramesh said the finance minister “virtually let the cat out of the bag” in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. “Watch for the next few days… what might happen. We are making a serious and sincere effort to ensure that they don’t bring it as a money Bill,” he said.
Yechury told The Indian Express that there was unanimity in the opposition ranks that the Bills should not be classified as money Bills. “If that happens, we will protest as it will be abuse of the Constitution…. we will oppose it tooth and nail,” he said.
“We will be certainly be keeping up the pressure on the government in the next few days and weeks. Ultimately the decision is of the government, we can’t force them to bring it as a finance Bill…we will keep expressing our concern,” Ramesh said.
The Congress and the government had been already on the warpath over classification of a private member’s Bill on Andhra Pradesh introduced in Rajya Sabha by one of its members as a money Bill. Yechury said the parties are also watching the proceedings in the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition filed by Ramesh challenging the government’s decision to treat Aadhaar Bill as a money Bill.
Ramesh also questioned Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s absence from the Rajya Sabha, when the constitutional amendment Bill was passed on Wednesday. “This is the first time in 66 years that a constitutional amendment Bill has been discussed and voted in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha without the Prime Minister present… It is an insult to Parliament,” he said.