A resolution of the prolonged political stalemate over the goods and services tax (GST) appeared in sight on Thursday with the government and the opposition Congress reaching a broad understanding on contentious issues.
This came after two rounds of meetings between senior Congress leaders and Union finance minister Arun Jaitley.
The nitty-gritty will be sorted out in the next few days, sources involved in the process told HT.
Sources close to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi confirmed that there was “progress in talks” over the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill to introduce the GST.
The bill has already been passed by the Lok Sabha but is struck in the Upper House where the BJP-led NDA does not have the required numbers.
The ruling dispensation plans to seek the passage of the Constitution bill in the Rajya Sabha next week.
Former prime minister Manmohan Singh is said to be guiding the Congress interlocutors although he is not directly involved in the negotiation process.
The GST, a uniform nationwide tax, will subsume a host of local taxes levied on goods and services.
On Wednesday, the Union Cabinet decided to drop a proposed 1% manufacturing tax, one of the three demands of the principal opposition party. The Congress has given up the second demand to cap the tax rate at 18 % in the Constitution (Amendment) bill.
It will be mentioned in the subordinate legislation, the GST bill, which is likely to be brought up for parliamentary approval in the winter session of Parliament. Asked how the two sides were resolving the issue of cap on the tax rate, the sources said they were exploring “optimal option”.
The opposition party is also learnt to have agreed not to press its third demand for a dispute redressal mechanism headed by a retired Supreme Court judge.
“We are working out another option but it’s not final yet,” said a source privy to the negotiations.
Jaitley held deliberations with leader of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and deputy leader Anand Sharma on Thursday morning. It was followed up by another meeting between the two sides in the evening. Chief economic advisor Arvind Subramanian went along with Jaitley for the second meeting.
Earlier in the day, the finance minister held consultations with leaders of the CPI(M), the CPI, the Samajwadi Party, the Trinamool Congress, and the BJD. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury was learnt to have demanded to see the exact proposals of the government.