Rare consensus between BJP-Congress over GST bills in Rajya Sabha

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New Delhi | Published: April 6, 2017 10:20:30 PM

As the Rajya Sabha approved four GST-supporting bills today, the House saw rare consensus between the government and the Congress, as a result of which the main opposition party did not press amendments, citing Manmohan Singh's advice.

After the passage of the bills, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley went up to Congress benches and shook hands with Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad to thank them. (PTI)

As the Rajya Sabha approved four GST-supporting bills today, the House saw rare consensus between the government and the Congress, as a result of which the main opposition party did not press amendments, citing Manmohan Singh’s advice. While Congress members Jairam Ramesh and Vivek Tankha did not press their amendments, their party colleague Subbarami Reddy was absent altogether from the House even though he had proposed amendments to a number of clauses. It was Ramesh who then spilled the beans. “Yesterday the former Prime Minister (Singh) advised me not the move the amendment because it will be disturb the fine consensus that has been arrived in the GST Council. It is the former PM who told me that don’t do this because it will send a wrong signal for a new federal framework,” Ramesh said.

“In deference to what the former PM said, in spite of the former PM being at the receiving end of the jibes of his successor including rain coat and what not, I think in view of the statesman-like approach that the former PM Manmohan Singh has advised me not to move this amendment,” he added. The ruling NDA is in a minority with only 74 seats in the 245-member House. Ramesh said he was not moving this amendment at all in keeping with the spirit of consensus, to maintain the federal framework and to give respect to the GST council. Later, while not moving another amendment, Ramesh reiterated that it was the former prime minister who asked him not seek amendments in the matter.

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“It was Dr Manmohan Singh who advised me not to move it. I am just trying to highlight the difference between the former Prime Minister who is a statesman and the present Prime Minister who is a politician,” Ramesh said. While Congress members did not move their amendments, their counterparts from the Trinamool Congress and the Left pressed their amendments, and Division of votes was sought on two amendments. After the passage of the bills, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley went up to Congress benches and shook hands with Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders including Ghulam Nabi Azad to thank them. Deputy Chairman P J Kurien also congratulated all members of the House for the “excellent debate” on the important legislation.

Earlier, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien, while moving his amendment and seeking a division, said all matters related to GST should pass through the Parliament. Jaitley asked O’Brien not to press for the division, saying if Parliament changes the tax rates approved by the GST Council, then state assemblies will also make changes.
“The moment we set this practice, we can forget GST…Let us not unilaterally upset the federal arrangement..it will become difficult to implement,” Jaitley said but O’Brien did not relent. The amendment was, however, negated overwhelmingly, with 113 voting against it and only 9 voting in favour. There were 9 abstentions.

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