The government on Wednesday abandoned plans to reconvene Parliament to get approval for the Goods and Services Tax bill, making it difficult for the proposed tax to be introduced by the self-imposed April 1 deadline.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley announced the decision to prorogue both houses of Parliament after failed attempts over the last 25 days to get the Congress on board to pass the key reform legislation.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi told cabinet colleagues in an informal interaction there was “no hope” the Congress would support the bill for the time being before a Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs meeting formally decided to prorogue the session.
Lashing out at the Congress for stalling the bill that could boost India's GDP by 1-2%, Jaitley said the Congress attitude appeared to be driven by revenge after its Lok Sabha tally fell to just 44 seats.
"We tried to make them (Congress) understand about the global slowdown and told them that all political parties should display elements of statesmanship,” he told reporters after a cabinet meeting.
"We have not said we are not going with the GST. We will continue to try. The Congress party's best bet today is disturbance. Their next best bet is to delay. And don't forget the numbers in Rajya Sabha change very radically, and on April 4 they will change significantly."
Five MPs nominated by the previous UPA government step down in April, but it still may not tilt the balance in the NDA’s favour.
The Congress insisted the NDA was trying to claim ownership of GST “after having obdurately opposed” it for over seven years. The party’s chief spokesperson, Randeep Surjewala, said the Congress had made seven changes to make the bill “truly implementable and meaningful”.
Jaitley ruled out the changes but suggested the government could meet the April deadline if the bill was passed during the winter session. "But now GST is almost a fortified agenda. The objections being raised, I don't see much substance in them. So I don't see much time before this is passed," he told a summit.