MUMBAI: Singling out top Congress leadership for stalling the GST Bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said some people get "sadistic pleasure" in obstruction, as most of the party's second-rung leaders are supportive of the key tax reform legislation.
"It is obvious that not allowing the GST Bill to pass is giving some people a sadistic pleasure. But then, democracy has its own strengths, the last laugh is the best one," he said at the ET Corporate Excellence Awards here this evening.
"When I speak to the mid-command of the party, I come back with a sense of optimism and when I meet them just before Parliament is about to commence, every morning I think the high command prevails over the mid-command.
"The problem is not with our politics, the problem is only with a few individuals," Jaitley told an audience comprising the who's who of India Inc.
Multiple times he made references to many leaders within the main Congress being supportive of the GST Bill, and also questioned why his predecessors P Chidambaram and Pranab Mukherjee did not think twice before introducing and pushing the Bill with a legal cap on the peak GST rate.
Stating that everybody, including regional parties and even UPA allies like the RJD, NCP and JDU are supporting the Bill, Jaitley said there is a "complete coalition" of those in support but only one party (the Congress) is the naysayer.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill to roll out the GST is stuck in the Rajya Sabha because of the stiff opposition by the Congress as the ruling NDA does not have enough numbers there.
Jaitley called the Upper House, in which he also is a member, as the "last bastion of obstruction".
He specifically mentioned the issue of tariffs which has become a bone of contention, saying it cannot be defined in the Constitution and warned that if we do it, a Constitutional amendment will have to be moved every time a natural disaster results in a change of the tariffs.
Jaitley also lauded the work done by Chidambaram during his tenure at North Block on resolving any possible issues between the Centre and states in the GST regime.
Without going into details, his ministerial colleague at the Power Ministry, Piyush Goyal said if Congress continues to stall the passage of the Bill, there will be a few "tricks" under the FM's sleeves to ask them to follow suit which cannot be revealed now.
The Finance Minister said the country is learning how to deal with crisis years like 2015, but underscored that if it can achieve growth rates of 7.5 per cent during tough times, the normal or potential growth rate is at least a percentage point higher.
He exuded confidence that with the measures being taken by the government, the country can achieve its potential growth in the coming time.
Speaking about the challenges on the fiscal front with April-December tax mop-up being only 66 per cent of the budget target, Jaitley remained non-committal, but stated that both expenditure to support the economy and adherence to narrow the fiscal deficit are on the mind of the government.
"I think both have their own importance. Last year, we did announce a revised fiscal consolidation route, our journey for three years. That is still important. At the same time,stepping up expenditure is also important," he said.
However, he took solace in fiscal data which are showing some bright spots and that the situation is under control.
He said the inherited problems on taxation continue to remain unresolved, but the government is working to solve them.
With the streamlining of the direct taxation set to be completed in the next three years, the country will be one of the most competitive in the world, he added.
To help the 'Make in India' initiative, efforts are also underway to ensure that investment proposals get clearances from the local bodies in time, the Minister said.
Meanwhile, Goyal was feted with the business reformer of the year award, while DIPP secretary Amitabh Kant was conferred the policy change agent of the year.
Kant said the excess reliance on FDI cannot continue and exhorted India Inc to start investing.
He said we need to scrap laws which have stalled the country from growing, and asserted that he has been able to "disrupt" things.
Other awardees included TCS' former chief executive S Ramadorai (lifetime achievement), SoftBank's Nikesh Arora (global Indian of the year), Snapdeal's Kunal Bahl (entrepreneur of the year) and Uday Kotak as the businessman of the year.
Those who attended the event included Mukesh Ambani, Deepak Parekh, Chanda Kochhar, Aditya Puri, Arundhati Bhattacharya and Vishal Sikka.