Trinamool Congress pledges its support to the key economic reform measure

New Delhi : As usual, the last week of the second half of the budget session would witness hectic legislative activity in the Lok Sabha. There are strong indications that the constitutional amendment for introducing a unified Goods and Services tax regime may pass muster, but the bill to replace the re-issued Land Acquisition Ordinance is likely to get stuck.

Indicating the weakening of the opposition unity on the question of the GST bill, the Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien has said that there is no point in sending the bill to the standing committee or the select committee had already examined it. This marks a departure from the position taken by the opposition parties including the TMC on April 26th when the union finance minister Arun Jaitley had introduced the bill. At that point all opposition parties had demanded that the bill should be sent to the standing committee for evaluation. Congress president Sonia Gandhi was at the forefront of this opposition.

Subsequently, even the Congress party indicated a revision of its position when the party spokesperson Rajeev Gowda argued that the opposition was to the procedure and the decision about sending the bill to the standing committee would be taken later.

The GST bill is a constitutional amendment, and there is a mandatory requirement that it should have the support of two thirds of the members present and voting, as well half the numbers in terms of absolute numbers. The BJP can easily muster the strength to meet the second criteria given its size of 262 in a house of 543, but needs the support of other parties to meet the two-thirds present and voting requirement. In that respect, the TMC decision to back the bill is pretty welcome for the government’s floor managers.

However, the passage of the bill replacing the Land Acquisition Ordinance remains pretty uncertain as the Congress that is the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha remains steadfastly opposed to it. It is expected that the bill would be okayed by the Lok Sabha within the next few days before it adjourns for the session, and then move to the Rajya Sabha that is scheduled to meet till May 13th.

Apart from the issues involved in the bill, there is a strong dimension of political prestige at stake from both the sides. Prime minister Narendra Modi is not expected to withdraw from the stated position that the 2013 bill passed unanimously during the previous UPA regime is anti-development. Neither does anyone expect that the Congress shall budge from its oft stated position that it wants the 2013 bill retained in toto. Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi has made it the first issue on his return from a 56 day sabbatical and has been active since then.

Meanwhile, senior congress leader Jairam Ramesh said thathis party will continue with its fight against the land Bill as it is “anti-farmer and dilutes the pro-farmer provisions of Land Acquisition Act-2013” which was passed with the consent of

all parties.

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