Oppn to corner govt again as GST bill to be taken up in LS today

  • HT Correspondent and Agencies, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 27, 2015 12:38 IST

The long-pending goods and services taxes (GST) bill, which is set to be taken up for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha on Monday, could set off another face-off between the government and the opposition in Parliament.

The Narendra Modi-led NDA government has a packed agenda to push through this week when both Houses will function only for 4 days.

The GST bill (The Constitution 122nd Amendment Bill, 2014) has been listed for further consideration and passage in Lok Sabha on Monday.

The bill was moved on Friday by finance minister Arun Jaitley who had said it was a "win-win" measure for both the Centre and the states as he sought to allay the apprehensions of some state governments that they would lose revenue if GST was implemented.

However, opposition members had alleged that the government was "bull-dozing" and bringing the bill in a "hush-hush" manner and wanted more time to study the "new" legislation.

The Congress party has accused the government of "changing its stand" on the issue and has demanded that the bill, which it claims has been "altered" from the version brought in by the previous UPA dispensation, should be sent to a standing committee.

Members of Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, along with those of the Left, Trinamool Congress and Nationalist Congress Party staged a walk out after their plea for referring the Constitution Amendment Bill to the Standing Committee was not accepted. The AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal also opposed its consideration but did not walk out.

Analysts say the tussle also has its roots in the issue of division of taxation powers between the Centre and states in a federal system, because while the states would get to keep a sizeable share of revenues from the GST, they would lose the authority to levy a wide array of lucrative state-specific taxes.

Seeking to assuage these fears, Jaitley said the Centre and the states will have concurrent power to levy tax on goods and services.

The bill amends the Constitution and so requires a two-thirds majority in both Houses to vote for it, while it already has the consent of many states who are key stakeholders.

When implemented, the GST is expected to eliminate several logistical logjams and vastly increase the speed of freight, as a World Bank study showed Indian truckers lose millions of operating hours a year stuck at interstate checkpoints, creating more opportunities for harassment and bribe-taking.

Apart from the GST bill, financial business and reports of the standing committees of 9 ministries, including urban development, agriculture and energy, are to be submitted in Parliament during this period.

Rajya Sabha will resume the second week by taking forward the discussion on agrarian crisis and suicides by farmers in the different parts of the country.

The issue would come up against the backdrop of the suicide by a farmer at a rally in the national capital that has fuelled a huge political controversy.

News agency PTI quoted unnamed government sources as saying that after the eventful first week of the second part of the ongoing Budget session, financial business will continue to be the main agenda of both the Houses during the second week.

There will be no sitting of Parliament on Friday on account of Labour Day.

Reports of the Parliamentary Standing Committees pertaining to Demands for Grants for 2015-16 in respect of the ministries of agriculture, defence, energy, environment and forests and climate change, food, consumer affairs and public distribution, Industry, science and technology, water resources and urban development will be submitted in both Houses.

Lok Sabha is also scheduled to take up the Demands for Grants of the ministries of human resource development, which has already been partially discussed, home affairs, environment and forests, climate change and health and family welfare.

The Lower House is to conclude the financial business with the passage of the finance bill during the second week.

(With PTI inputs)

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