Blames Modi for his political moves as Gujarat CM, says the prime minister’s support for the bill now is an afterthought

New Delhi : There has been no let-up in the Congress opposition to the two controversial bills – the Land Acquisition Bill 2015, and the GST Bill even after the whole monsoon session of the parliament was washed out without discussing these ambitious reform measures.

“The biggest stumbling block for the GST bill was Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the chief minister of Gujarat. Otherwise the bill would have been passed in 2012. Before the finance minister tells us that our suggestions regarding the GST bill are an afterthought, let us remember that the prime minister’s support for the bill now is also an afterthought”, said party spokesperson Jairam Ramesh.

At a media briefing at the party headquarters, Ramesh said that the Congress is all for the GST, but then we want a ‘good, simple’ bill. “All the amendments that we have suggested are in the interest of the consumers. For instance we want that the upper limit of the GST should be pegged at 18% and this should not be left vague as proposed by the government. We have also suggested that the additional 1% tax that has been left to the discretion of the state governments should also be withdrawn, as this would burden the consumers”, he added.

Summarily dismissing the idea of a special session to pass these bills, the former union minister said that such an idea has not been broached by the government so far. “ besides, there can be no joint session for a constitutional amendment”, he added.

Ramesh said that the GST is an indirect tax and it hurts the poor more than the rich.” Unlike a direct tax that puts heavier burden on the rich, the GST is an indirect and regressive tax that burdens everyone equally, so the poor are hurt more by it”, he added.

“On the Land Acqusition bill, the Congress spokesperson said that “even though the BJP government has agreed to withdraw six of the nine controversial amendments to the 2013 bill passed under the UPA, the party would continue to oppose the remaining three amendments.” These are major issues that affect the interests of the farmers. The BJP wants that there should be no clause for the return of the acquired land even if the project does not take off for five years. But we will insist on this clause. Then there is issue of retrospective effect. The BJP wants that there should be no retrospective implementation of the land owner goes to the court. We are opposed to this clause”, he added.

The Congress leader also challenged the validity of the BJP’s proposal that the states can have their own land acquisition bills.” The subject comes under the concurrent list, and the centre has the responsibility to enact such a law, and if it decides to leave it to the states, then it would be abdicating the constitutional responsibility to legislate”, he said while adding that such a situation would also lead to competitive and not cooperative federalism that is prime minister Modi’s watchword.

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