More than a week after an acrimonious end to the monsoon session, the government is yet to open its channels of communication with the Congress and other oppposition parties on the crucial Goods and Services Tax bill.
The government has only a small window left to call the second half of the monsoon session or a special session as the probability of the election commission announcing the Bihar assembly poll schedule in the first week of September is high.
Congress sources said no one from the government has approached them so far, even informally, to discuss any possible schedule. “For any normal session, the government can schedule it at its will. But if it wants to pass the GST bill, they should consult the opposition first before planning the session,” said a senior Congress strategist.
Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M), a party opposed to the current form of the GST bill, and NDA’s potential supporter BJD also told HT that there’s no communication from the government so far on any parliament session. “We have only read it in the newspapers,” said Mahtab.
Yechury told HT that if the government calls a session, “the opposition will have to first decide what to do on the issues that had stalled the monsoon session.”
The Congress sources said the party may not stall the next session, but will not support the GST Bill in its present form as it wants four changes.
The proposed changes are: capping the GST rate at 18%, doing away with the additional 1% tax over and above the GST, compensation for local bodies for revenue loss and a separate dispute settlement mechanism.
“Earlier, we got feelers from the government that it is ready to withdraw the additional 1% tax that was primarily to benefit Gujarat and Maharashtra. But they must accept our other proposals too,” said a Congress leader.
Sources also added that a large section of the party feels that the Congress has under no compulsion to allow the government to hurriedly pass the GST bill as the BJP’s opposition earlier had forced the Manmohan Singh government miss two proposed deadlines for rollout.