New Delhi: On the eve of the monsoon session of Parliament, which as usual promises to be a stormy one, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a fervent appeal to all parties to help pass the long pending Goods and Services Tax Bill.
Speaking at an all-party meeting, Modi said: “GST is of national importance. The issue is not one for which the government gets credit. Important Bills, including GST, will be taken up in the monsoon session and I am hopeful of meaningful discussions and outcomes. All of us represent both the people and parties and let us keep national interests above everything else.”
This appeal to national interest has come in the wake of an impression getting ground even internationally that unable to muster bipartisan support for this crucial reform legislation, the Modi Sarkar is getting sluggish on the overall economic reform agenda. The bill originally mooted by the Congress has been hanging fire due to a divisive polity. Initially it ran into opposition by the BJP and now it is being stalled by the Congress.
Even now the Congress appeared cold to the prime minister’s plea insisting that it wants to see the draft of the proposed bill before making up its mind. Party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said: “We have not taken any decision that we have to stop a bill. We will support it on merit. We will support any bill which is in support of people, progress and growth.” His colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia was more specific saying: “We want a concrete draft proposal from the government on GST. If we know how they plan to address the three contentious issues, we can revert.”
The divide between the two sides hinges on the crucial GST rate. The opposition led by the Congress has demanded that a cap on the tax rate at around 18 per cent be built into the proposed bill, and the government is unwilling to be bound to a particular rate written into the law, as any future changes would require a further amendment of the constitution.
Leaders of the two sides had met last week to work out a compromise and after a 45-minute meeting it was decided that they would report on the deliberations to their respective leadership and get back. The next meeting is scheduled for Tuesday.
Although Parliament is expected to witness fireworks on other issues, including the violence in Kashmir, the government’s failure on the issue of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, and the political situation in Arunachal Pradesh, the success of this session hinges on the passage of the GST bill.