Ahead of Rajya Sabha taking up the landmark GST Bill, the principal Opposition party Congress said on Wednesday it was not opposed to the Goods and Services Tax bill and only wants the tax rate not to be changed at whim of executive order.
Stating that there were enough number of days left during the current monsoon session of Parliament to approve the constitutional amendment bill, senior Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram said if the government is “clever” it can come up with a formulation to keep GST rate stable that is acceptable.
“We are not opposed to the GST. Please make a distinction between what is idea of GST and particular GST bill which is before Parliament today. We are the authors of GST idea, we are authors of GST bill. Therefore, we are entirely in favour of GST. I would have passed this if BJP had supported it in 2012-13,” he told Karan Thapar on India Today news channel.
The Bill pending before Parliament, he said, was a “flawed one” and the Congress party had suggested three major changes including an 18% rate of GST in the Constitution bill.
If the government disagreed with the formulation, it can come up with a different formulation, he said.
“There are various ways to reach a point... there are various ways of doing it... I think you must understand why we want certain degree of certainty about rate. GST is an indirect tax (and) by definition it is a regressive tax.
“We don’t want that rate to be fiddled around by executive orders. We need a certain degree of certainty... if the government is clever then it can come up with any formulation that is acceptable... provided it (rate GST) is not changeable at the whim of executive order,” he said.
Chidambaram said the government has to put its views on any modification to the Bill in writing before the Congress party can take a stand on the legislation. “If you are willing to modify those clauses, the minimum we need to know is language of modified clauses... Once modified draft comes, we may agree, we may ask for changes there, I think we should get modified draft (first).”
On government mustering numbers by getting regional parties like TMC on board, he asked if such a crucial legislation should be passed on strength of numbers or strength of argument.
“I think bill of this nature, should be passed on strength of its contents. The bill is flawed that’s why government is willing to make change,” he said. “There are enough number of days to pass GST bill, if there is will then there is way.”