Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi have succeeded in scuttling NDA govt’s GST Bill plans. FM Arun Jaitley's handling of the matter is equally to blame for this.
The success of Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi in scuttling the NDA government’s plans to push Land Bill and GST Bill is set to dent India’s reforms record badly. FM Arun Jaitley’s handling of the parliamentary logjam is to be blamed equally for this.
The writing on the wall is now almost clear about the goods and services tax (GST) implementation from April 1, 2016.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made it clear that there will be no special session of the Monsoon Session of Parliament to pass the GST Bill as the government has failed to bring the Congress party on board for its passage in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA lacks a majority.
This means that the political bickering between the two largest parties in the country has also scuttled the biggest tax reform in the country. The rigid stance of the Congress party over the resignation of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in the Lalit Modi controversy and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the Vyapam scam almost washed out the Monsoon Session and there are no signs that things will change till the Bihar Assembly election is over.
The Election Commission today announced the polls in five phases, from October 12 to November 5 – the counting will be held on November 8. The more worrying part is the road ahead for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in getting the critical reform bills, including the GST, passed in Parliament will become more difficult if the RJD-JD(U)-Congress grand alliance succeeds in winning the Bihar election.
Clearly, the NDA reform agenda appears to be on an extremely shaky ground now. Though FM Jaitley has said that the government will keep trying for the passage of the GST Bill as almost all the political parties are in its favour, except Congress, this is unlikely to yield much unless Sonia Gandhi changes her mind. This doesn’t appear to be a possibility despite the government being ready to discuss the changes like scrapping of the 1% additional tax on the interstate trade that Congress has suggested.
While the opposition to the Land Bill from almost all corners is understandable as no party wants to be seen as being “anti-farmer”, failure to pass the GST Bill — which is expected to clean up the indirect tax mess and put in place a harmonised system across all the states and the Centre — is a sad commentary on the country’s political class.
Just expressing the inability to pass the GST Bill hardly helps. It is the responsibility of the government of the day to find a way out of this.