The government will table the 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday with the Congress indicating its support for the legislation that will roll out the landmark goods and services tax (GST) across the country.
A five-member Congress panel led by former finance minister P Chidambaram met this afternoon to discuss the government’s proposals that address the opposition party’s concerns over the radical tax structure.
Once adopted, GST will replace a string of central and local levies such as excise, value added tax and octroi into a single unified tax and stitch together a common national market.
The bill, already passed by the Lok Sabha, is stuck in the upper house due to opposition from the Congress. The ruling BJP-led NDA does not have the required numbers in the upper house for passage of the bill without the Congress’s support.
“All the issues we have raised are there in the GST constitutional amendment,” said Congress leader and deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma, who briefed the committee on the government’s response to the party’s demands.
In clear signs of the growing bonhomie over the bill, the government deferred plans to pass the bill by 24 hours after the Congress said that party chief Sonia Gandhi and leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad will be unavailable on Tuesday. Both are scheduled to attend a party programme in Uttar Pradesh.
The Centre, sources said, assured the Congress it will change the language of the bill to give more power to states in dispute resolution and that GST rates will not hurt the common people.
The Union cabinet earlier scrapped a provision in the bill for 1% additional tax to manufacturing states while approving a 100% compensation for any revenue loss for 5 year under the new tax regime.
“After speaking to all political party the government has listed the 122nd constitution amendment bill in Rajya Sabha for discussion and passing on Wednesday. The amendments will be circulated to the MPs,” parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said.
The first bill on the GST, brought by the first UPA government lapsed at the end of the last Lok Sabha as two BJP-ruled states, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh expressed reservations over the bill. The NDA government introduced a fresh bill last year and sent it to a select committee even after the Lok Sabha approved it.
On Monday, finance minister Arun Jaitley again consulted senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma, CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury and leaders from Samajwadi Party.
While J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK is yet to come on board, the party may stage a walk out during the voting on the GST bill, sources said.