Opinion: Will NDA govt be able to pass GST, Land Bill this Monsoon Session?

Failure in getting the GST and the Land Acquisition Bill passed will severely dent the government’s efforts to improve the policy domain

Santosh-TiwariThe truncated three-week Monsoon Session of Parliament, slated to begin on July 21, is set to be a stormy one. The NDA government has pinned its hopes of passing two critical Bills – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and also the Land Acquisition Bill – in this Session. But, these hopes may get dashed if the Opposition onslaught on Lalit Modi issue continues unabated.

The way things are going at present this appears to be a strong possibility with the Congress asking for the resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje Scindia on the Lalit Modi row. The BJP, though, has rejected this demand; it will find it increasingly difficult to maintain this stance if the Congress party succeeds in convincing other non-NDA parties also to join hands.

The BJP has been trying to gain strength before the beginning of the Monsoon Session to pass both the Land Acquisition and the GST Bill by bringing parties like TMC, BJD and NCP to its fold so that it succeeds in clearing the Rajya Sabha hurdle where it lacks a majority.

While the joint committee of Parliament will be giving its report on the Land Acquisition Bill on the first day of the Monsoon Session, the Rajya Sabha select committee will also submit its report on the GST Bill. The NDA government is hopeful that the two panels will suggest middle-grounds that will help government make the required changes in these laws that will get the majority support in Parliament.

The Congress party, understandably, will try its level best to thwart this move and it has got a timely weapon in the Lalit Modi episode for this. It is up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi now to diffuse this situation as the failure in getting the GST Bill passed in the Monsoon session would mean missing the April 1, 2016, deadline for its implementation for sure.

In case of the Land Acquisition Bill, too — despite the fact that the government has re-promulgated the Ordinance – it would be unwise to expect that any land acquisition will happen till the law comes into force. So, if the Monsoon Session is washed out and the government fails to transact any serious legislative business, it will seriously dent the Narendra Modi government’s efforts on the policy front.

It has already failed in dealing with the tax terror by not doing away with the UPA’s retrospective amendments, and not being able to introduce GST quickly would be seen as another failure in improving the tax regime. The Land Acquisition Bill along with labour reforms and a framework for easy entry and exit routes for startups and also other companies, is key to enhancing the ease of doing business.

It is a fact that mere announcements of big schemes and projects like smart cities, Jan Dhan, and Make-in-India can’t succeed till business atmosphere improves.

The UPA government allowed scams and political controversies to ruin the prospects of a better economic growth. Is the NDA also about to go the same way? The way prime minister handles the Monsoon Session will provide an answer to this question. It is time now to take tough decisions besides deft handling of Parliament.

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