The government on Friday set the stage for another push to the long-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill as finance minister Arun Jaitley moved a formal notice to the Rajya Sabha secretariat to table the legislation next week.
Unsure of support from the Congress, the Centre is banking on regional parties like the Trinamool, JD (U), Samajwadi Party, DMK, and BJD to get the bill through the Rajya Sabha test. A section of the government also thinks the bill may test the Congress’ stand as the legislation was originally planned during the UPA era.
Leaving no stones unturned, hectic parleys were already on between the government and the Opposition. Jaitley is believed to have held long meetings with NCP chief Sharad Pawar and Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari, while parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu met Congress leaders Mallikarjun Kharge and Ghulam Nabi Azad.
Even as the Congress remains adamant on washing out the entire session and the Upper House remains paralysed due to protests, the government plans to place the bill on Monday as the session is scheduled to end on August 13. The urgency to pass the bill is palpable — observers feel the GST roll-out could be delayed by a year if the parliament fails to pass the 122nd constitution amendment bill for GST during this session.
The Lok Sabha had cleared the GST bill in the last budget session but the government preferred to refer it to a Select Committee in an attempt to try to get the Congress on board.
But the latter has found faults with the current draft of the bill.
Top Congress sources told HT that if a debate finally takes place in the Rajya Sabha on the bill, the party will have decide on a final stand—to support, abstain from voting, or vote against the bill.
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa asked PM Narendra Modi to arrive at a broad consensus on various issues before taking up the GST bill as states are concerned about the impact it will have on their fiscal autonomy.