Given the heightened political tensions, it appears difficult to see how the government can possibly get the GST Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha. Yet, it has done well to keep open the option of a special session for this purpose by adjourning both houses instead of ending the monsoon session. Indeed, if the BJP is able to show that all parties are for the GST and it is only the
Congress that is holding it up, over a period of time, even the Congress may soften its stance. The reason for hope—this, of course, assumes the Congress will allow Parliament to function even if it votes against the Bill—is several-fold, and has to do with the government’s moves to woo non-Congress parties; the prime minister flew down to Chennai and met AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa, one of the parties that had submitted a dissent note in the Rajya Sabha select committee.
The biggest reason for hope is that the government has broadly accepted the recommendations of the select committee which had representatives of all major political parties. This includes accepting that the states will be fully compensated for any losses arising out of the implementation of GST for the first 5 years. Since there is going to be full compensation anyway, the Centre may be able to get the producing states to agree to drop their demand for the 1% additional tax for a period of 2 years. So, assuming that parties vote along the lines evident in the select committee—the Congress with 70 MPs including 2 allies, the Left with 10 MPs and the AIADMK with 11 members submitted dissent notes—the government will be marginally short of the magic two-thirds number to pass the Bill. Which is where wooing Jayalalithaa becomes important since her party could either support the Bill or walk out during the process of voting. It will be touch and go, but as government managers point out, there is always some give and take in the process of voting—and more so since states realise they will benefit from GST.