The bills on goods and services tax and amendments to the land acquisition Act are unlikely to be cleared by both Houses of Parliament in the current session and the Centre may refer these to Parliamentary committees “out of compulsion”.
The government may agree to refer the GST bill, passed by Lok Sabha, to a select committee in Rajya Sabha, and the controversial land bill to a joint committee, a panel with members from both Houses, which will give its recommendations after scrutiny in a time-bound manner, a source said.
“We may be able to manage the numbers in Rajya Sabha… We have managed support of 147 members. If it was a bill that can be passed with a simple majority, it would have been easy. But, we do not want to take any risk as its a constitutional amendment bill,” the source said, adding: “It’s out of compulsion.” A constitutional amendment requires the presence of more than half of the total strength of the House and support of two-thirds of those present. Rajya Sabha’s current strength is 244.
While GST bill is expected to be taken up in Rajya Sabha on Monday, the land acquisition bill is likely to be taken up in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The Lok Sabha Speaker will constitute the joint committee in which BJP will have an edge in terms of representation as it has a majority in the Lower House.
The government, however, is confident that the Undisclosed Foreign Income and Assets (Imposition of Tax) Bill, 2013, or back money bill will get cleared in the current session that concludes on May 13. The Lok Sabha was scheduled to end on Friday but the session has been extended till May 13. The government has extended the House to transact some important legislative business, including passage of key bills like land bill.
Congress seems to have made it clear that the Opposition will not allow the GST bill to be passed in this session under any circumstances.
The government has reached out to Congress with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley holding two meetings with Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and his deputy Anand Sharma. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu was present in one of the meetings.
Sources said Congress has given a fresh proposal to the government — refer all the “outstanding issues” to a select committee which can submit its report before the Monsoon Session of Parliament. By then, the Empowered Committee of Finance Ministers will also give their suggestions. “That way the bill can be passed unanimously in the Monsoon session. It is to be implemented only in 2016. then why put a gun on our head,” a senior Congress leader, said adding the party was not against the GST. Both Azad and Sharma declined to reveal their cards. When asked, Sharma said “It will be better for the government to be reasonable and respond positively to opposition parties so that the consensus be reflected in such an important constitutional amendment and let it be passed unanimously in the Monsoon Session than doing it in this manner.”
Although many of the Opposition parties are not with Congress on this issue, the party hopes to delay its passage in this session. Since it was a constitutional amendment bill, the government require the support of 167 members. Congress floor managers are counting on the support of 10 Left members and 15 members of AIADMK and DMK. The Congress has 68 members and along with nominated and other allies, party leaders claim, it will alone have 83.
“We are beyond 100. The government may arrange some walkouts and all. But still it will not have the numbers,” a senior Congress leader said.
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