Finance Minister Arun Jaitley lamenting in public about Congress blocking the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill is clearly a sign of desperation as the predictions of the Monsoon session getting completely washed out due to Lalitgate and Vyapam appear to be coming out correct.
The finance minister’s attack on the Congress party saying that its obstructionist tendencies and negativism is hurting the country, ahead of the crucial all-party meeting today, shows that the government is hardly expecting a breakthrough in it.
Though he is correct in pointing out that the GST was mooted by the Congress, that doesn’t mean he can take the party’s support as given.
In parliamentary democracy, no support is for free, just in the name of reform. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) didn’t do it when it was in the opposition, and it should not expect others to do it when it has gained power.
If the NDA thinks there is no need for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Union Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj to resign due to Lalitgate, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan taking responsibility for Vyapam scam; why can’t the Congress party also stick to its demand for these resignations?
But, if this deadlock is stalling discussion on the GST Bill in Parliament, and its passage and implementation, let all the parties officially register their views in the Rajya Sabha, where it is stuck because of the NDA’s lack of majority in the house.
This will force the Congress party to weigh its gains and losses for what it does in the upper house. There is no harm in delaying GST implementation by one more year to April 2017. Let the Congress scuttle the passage of the modified Bill accommodating the select committee’s suggestions in the Rajya Sabha.
While the government will get one more year to prepare for the GST and finalising the contours of the biggest tax reform in the country besides holding further discussions on its flaws, the Congress party will have to take the responsibility for this delay in a critical reform measure.
The Parliamentary approval for the GST Constitution Amendment Bill in the current monsoon session ending August 13 is necessary so that half of the 30 states clear it for rolling out the new regime from April 1, 2016, submerging all existing indirect taxes like excise and VAT into the GST.
With a full five-year compensation for the states in case there is a revenue loss on account of GST, the main demand of the states is met, and the Centre can now work with them in removing other flaws in the GST Bill like 1% additional tax on interstate trade.
If the Congress doesn’t want it, let the party make it clear on the floor of the Rajya Sabha.