Government lists GST Bill in Rajya Sabha for Wednesday


NEW DELHI: The long-pending GST Bill+ was on Monday listed for consideration and passage in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday amidst strong indications that the most far-reaching taxation reform in independent India would be supported by Congress and all other major political parties.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, which has been in the making for over a decade, entails introduction of a single indirect tax regime across the country.

“The GST Bill is listed+ for consideration and passage on Wednesday in Rajya Sabha and we seek support of all political parties. The mood is in favour of its passage,” Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar said.

According to top government sources, a fresh round of talks was held on Monday with the main opposition Congress and other parties, including the Left and Samajwadi Party, for building a consensus on the key tax reform legislation.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley held further consultations with senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma and chalked out details of the contentious bill aimed at bringing about a consensus on the key bill, sources said.

Jaitley also met CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury, besides some other leaders. Later, along with Kumar, he met Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.

Another round of talks to clarify on the language of key parts of the bill is likely to be held with Congress on Tuesday.

Sources added that government was to initially bring the bill on Tuesday, but Congress was not keen on the proposal due to the roadshow of Sonia Gandhi in Varanasi on Tuesday which may be attended by some party MPs.

The government, sources say, is keen to bring about four key amendments in the Constitution Amendment Bill which will include the scrapping of 1 per cent additional tax provision and grant of more powers to states for providing them full compensation for a period of five years.

The key Congress demand for rephrasing of the language for setting up of dispute resolution mechanism in the GST Council has also been agreed to by the government.

At the AICC briefing, Congress leader PL Punia said GST is very important for the economy, industry and the business as also for the consumer.

“With that objection in mind, it was the Congress party which brought the idea of GST. We have raised certain issues and negotiations are still on. We are prepared to accept every reasonable solution which does not adversely affect the business, industry and consumer.

“There has to be one more round of talks. Party feels the bill should be passed and our best wishes that this bill be passed,” he said.

The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha last year but the government could not muster required numbers for its passage in Rajya Sabha that time due to strong opposition by Congress and some other political parties.

Meanwhile, the BJP on Monday also issued a whip to its members asking them to be present in the House for the next three days during which it expects the legislation to be passed.

Another amendment that the government is likely to bring in the bill is to spell out the principle for setting the rate of tax to be fixed to ensure that neither does it hurt the revenue of states nor the consumer.

The key bill is likely to see the light of the day and get passed as almost all the parties are now on board, according to top government sources.

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“We are trying to bring on board everyone on the key legislation and are holding talks to all and clearing their doubts,” a senior government official said.

Intended to convert 29 states into a single market, the new indirect tax regime was earlier planned to be introduced from April 1 this year, but the deadline was missed as the legislation to roll it out remained in limbo in the Opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha.