The Modi government will try its luck in getting the Constitution amended for rolling out the goods and services tax (GST) from April next year by mustering support from all non-Congress Opposition members of the Rajya Sabha, when the current session will be reconvened by the end of this month or early September.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley told reporters: “We are determined to take all steps needed to implement GST from next April… As far as support for the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha is concerned, the numbers are suited for its passage.”
The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs that met on Thursday decided not to prorogue the House although no decision on extending or reconvening it has been taken yet. Sources said the session would be reconvened in a fortnight. On Thursday, the session was adjourned sine die.
Jaitley said that in the last few days, it was only the Congress that was opposing the Bill and disrupting proceedings while all others, including the Left parties, were signalling that the House must function normally.
Sources said the BJP was talking to other parties, but Jaitley declined to comment on what strategy the government would adopt in getting the crucial tax reform passed in the Upper House. He, however, said that leaving the Bill for the Winter session would make it “extremely difficult” to implement the indirect tax reform from next fiscal as two central statutes on central GST and inter-state GST as well as one state GST statute in all states need to be in place by then. This is in addition to getting the Constitution amendment ratified by half of the 29 states.
While unrelenting protests from the Congress had so far prevented a discussion on the Bill since it was tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, some of the other Opposition parties seem to be lending support to it.
Trinamool Congress spokes-person Derek O’Brien said on Wednesday his party was committed to the GST and wanted the Bill to be passed. Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, which had earlier given a dissent note to certain provisions in the Bill to a House panel, too seems to have softened its disapproval after PM Narendra Modi met her last week to seek support. Jaitley assured that if any state suffers revenue loss after GST implementation, it would be fully compensated.
The government is banking on non-Congress parties such as Trinamool Congress, SP, BSP, JD (U) and CPM to get the Bill passed with two-thirds majority. The Bill will be put to vote only if the 245 member House has a quorum of at least half its members. On a full House, the Bill would require 164 votes.