Government Reaches Out, But Congress Non-committal

Centre plans holding a two-day special session of Parliament in the second week of next month to pass Goods and Services Tax Bill

Published: 26th August 2015 03:10 AM  |   Last Updated: 26th August 2015 06:42 AM   |  A+A-

NEW DELHI:  The Centre on Tuesday reached out to the Congress with an intention of holding a two-day special session of Parliament to pass a Constitutional amendment Bill facilitating the roll out of Goods and Services Tax.

While the government tentatively proposed a second week of September schedule, the Opposition party was reluctant to commit itself without looking at the “fine print” of the Bill.

But the first signs of a thaw came from Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu’s formal meeting with the Leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, after which he let the media know about the government’s initiative to break the logjam. “The chances of re-convening the session are bright,” Venkaih told Express, after talking to Kharge.  Indications are that the special session could be called around second of week of September.With Prime Minister Narendra Modi making it quite clear to his colleagues on Monday that he sees pushing through the economic reform agenda of the Government “is of paramount importance”, Venkaih swung into action to get the Opposition on board to convince them that enacting GST now, after eight years of gestation, “is in national interest”. Venkaiah said that the he has conveyed it to Kharge that the Government “is approaching the dialogue with an open mind”.

GOVT.JPGThe Congress has, meanwhile, scaled down its six demands to three, viz, fixing of ceiling to GST not more than 18 per cent, withdrawal of 1 per cent additional tax to be levied by manufacturing states, like Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, and a separate independent mechanism of grievance redressal. For the government “to marry the demand of the main Opposition party and the concerns of the states”, especially Gujarat and Tamil Nadu,  which not just fear loss of revenue but also disapprove of the GST is the real task at hand, a top official explained.

The ruling party of Tamil Nadu, the AIADMK, gave a well-circulated dissent note to the Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha. But the Gujarat government in its presentation before Parliamentary Panel said that GST “has never been seen as beneficial for the state” and “it is supporting the move out of political compulsions”.

“We cannot commit support without studying the draft Bill. We need to know which amendments proposed by us has been accepted and which not,” Kharge told Express, adding that “let them send us a copy of the Bill, we can confirm whether a special session would be fruitful or not.”

The government is also talking to the other Opposition parties. Apart from the Congress and the AIADMK, the Left Parties -- the CPM and the CPI-- have opposed the current draft of the GST. However, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury clarified that the party was not against the GST.

It seems, the Congress is waiting for the government to reach out to its top leadership.

Prior to the Venkaiah  -Kharge meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had a fairly long interaction with former Commerce Minister and Congress Deputy Leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma.

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