NEW DELHI: Upset over what it calls the surreptitious introduction of clauses in the Finance Bill — like the enhanced role of the taxman to come and raid citizens without prior notice or explanation — the Congress plans to move a few amendments in the Upper House on Tuesday.
A whip has been issued by the Grand Old Party for all its MPs to be present in the House, and a coalescing opposition interest to defeat the ‘controversial’ clause is also evident.
In fact, the first whiff of the opposition strategy came from a Left MP and not the Congress.
In a bit of a disarray after the BJP’s thumping victory in UP and Uttarakhand, the Opposition is trying to get its act together on this issue in the Rajya Sabha, where it has an edge over the treasury benches.
The only problem is, even if the Opposition manages to outwit the government and successfully move the amendment to get Clause 51, 52 and 53 ‘deleted’, it will have little effect on the actual scheme of things.
On a Finance Bill, the Rajya Sabha’s role is recommendatory and not binding on the government. If passed, all that the government has to do is to take it back to the Lower House and get the RS amendment rejected.
The overwhelming majority that the BJP/NDA has in the Lok Sabha can easily ensure that. So, when Congress leader Digvijaya Singh moves the amendment on Tuesday, it would be more to make a political point than anything more permanent.
Nonetheless, the Congress is going ahead. In fact, Kapil Sibal, while taking part in the debate on Monday, sought to lambast the government on demonetisation, the move to make Aadhaar virtually mandatory for just about everything and the enhanced role of the lower-level taxman.
The Clause enables the assistant commissioner of the IT Department to snoop around without explanation, if he or she has a “reason to believe” something is wrong — a virtual carte blanche.
Sibal objected to the “unbridled powers” given to taxmen through the clause, by which tax officials are not required to give any reason for searching and making seizures, not even to the appellate tribunal.