Keen to push the Constitution Amendment Bill for the goods and services tax in Parliament’s upcoming winter session, the government reached out to the Opposition on Wednesday, indicating its willingness to avoid disruption in the House.
With eight days to go before the start of the session, parliament affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to Congress’ Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge and former minister Veerappa Moily, hoping to gain its backing for key economic reforms.
Maintaining that the earlier Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill has undergone a lot of changes and that the government is ready to discuss further amendments that Congress has been pressing for Naidu said he is ready to “talk to the Congress president, if need arises”. Congress has demanded that the GST rate should be capped at 18%; the additional 1% tax over and above the GST should be done away with; and a grievance redressal council should be set-up for all states.
Meanwhile, finance minister Arun Jaitley met Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on Wednesday. The BJP and the Congress sources maintained that the visit was meant to invite Gandhi for his daughter’s wedding. Jaitley had also visited party chief Sonia Gandhi last Saturday for the same purpose, Congress sources said.
In a recent interview to Bloomberg, Jaitley had stated that the government is willing to speak with any Congress leader to clear the decks for GST. When asked if that includes Rahul Gandhi, he replied, “Certainly. why not?”
Without Congress’ backing the government stands little chance of passing key economic reforms, including the real estate bill that lists measures to protect consumer interest and form a real estate regulatory authority, in the Parliament.
Naidu, however, cautioned the Opposition that the BJP alone doesn’t need to learn lessons from Bihar polls. “The Opposition, too, should understand that legislations need to be passed for Bihar’s benefit,” he said hinting Bihar stands to gain from the GST regime.