The Congress seems to have been tamed in Parliament after the drubbing in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand and its failure to form governments in Goa and Manipur as the aggression seen in previous sessions is missing in the second half of the budget session.
The poll outcome in five states has buoyed the BJP and demoralised the entire opposition camp. The lack of coordination was visible when the government moved the Finance Bill with 40 amendments in the Lok Sabha without much resistance. The bill was passed by voice vote with a mere symbolic walkout by Congress and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) members.
Congress leaders stressed the need for opposition unity in Parliament to prevent the ruling side from “riding roughshod” over the opposition. When a CPI(M) leader was asked whether the opposition had become more “dis-spirited” after the results of the Uttar Pradesh elections, he said the opposition has realised they have to pull up their socks. “As far as the Rajya Sabha is concerned, the opposite is true. After UP, the opposition has realised that they will have to pull up their socks together and they are doing it,” he said.
At a strategy meeting of Congress MPs chaired by party vice-president Rahul Gandhi in Parliament on Tuesday morning, it was decided that the bills that would enable the roll out of Goods and Services Tax (GST) will not be blocked though concerns over certain provisions in the proposed legislation will be raised by moving some amendments. The Lok Sabha is scheduled to discuss these bills for seven hours before considering them for passage on Wednesday.
Senior Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, who will open the discussion from the opposition side on the GST and related bills in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, is expected to raise the concerns over different slab structure in the bill.
Moily had told the strategy meeting that the four-tier tax slabs of 5, 12, 18 and 28% as approved by the GST council will create confusion.
However, it was decided that the Congress will play the role of a constructive opposition and not block the GST bill or be seen as against the legislation.
Congress sources said all members who plan to move any amendments have been asked to discuss those with Moily first.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Monday moved Central Goods and Services Tax (CGST) Bill, Integrated Goods and Services Tax (IGST) Bill, the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Bill and the Union Territory Goods and Services Tax (UT-GST) Bill in the Lok Sabha on Monday.
The CGST, IGST and SGST provide for a maximum tax of 20% each. Taken any of the two taxes together, the bills provide that the maximum tax burden in the GST regime at 40% as an enabling provision for financial emergencies.
For his part, Gandhi also told the members to raise the issue of the farmers’ distress and press for a farm loan waiver in Parliament.
On the other hand, Jaitley hoped the “revolutionary” GST bill and related legislations would be passed with consensus in the current budget session of Parliament.
The finance minister also briefed the BJP MPs about the bills at a parliamentary party meeting also attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior ministers.