FM Arun Jaitley has indicated, by saying he is willing to talk to Rahul Gandhi, that he is looking to don the mantle of PM Narendra Modi’s master troubleshooter, but the fate of the GST Bill in Parliament will decide whether he is capable of playing this role.
Once Bihar assembly elections results are out on Sunday, the focus of political activity will shift to New Delhi with the upcoming Winter Session of Parliament.
Though the Bihar results will not impact the number equation in Parliament in the immediate run, it will certainly have a psychological effect – a Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) win will embolden PM Narendra Modi and Arun Jaitley to push reform bills like the goods and services tax (GST) and labour law changes with added vigour and a loss will surely dent their confidence.
But, whatever be the result, the passage of reform Bills will depend on the success of these two senior leaders of the ruling dispensation, especially FM Jaitley, in cobbling support from the non-NDA parties, that has been missing so far.
At some point of time FM Arun Jaitley will have to start playing the role of the NDA government’s master troubleshooter in the way Pranab Mukherjee did for the UPA government for years.
So, the finance minister has done well by taking the lead in this regard ahead of the Bihar results by saying that he is willing to reach out to the Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi to get the biggest reform agenda in two decades, the GST Bill, passed by Parliament.
The passage of the GST Bill in the Winter Session of Parliament will open the possibilities for implementation of the new tax regime which will subsume the central and state levies to create a single market from the next financial year.
The Congress party is opposing the additional 1% tax over and above the GST rate to compensate the manufacturing states and also wants alcohol and petroleum products to be included in the GST regime.
With most of the non-NDA parties broadly support the proposed GST regime, it is for FM Jaitley now to find a way out to get the GST Bill passed, with or without the Congress support in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA lacks a majority.
This is the biggest challenge for him and a success or failure in getting this done will also to a large extent signify his performance as finance minister.