Lok Sabha GST Bill Debate LIVE: GST will make one nation, one tax regime a reality, says Poonam Mahajan


4.40pm: BJP MP Poonam Mahajan cites an Akbar-Birbal tale to drive home the point that GST will benefit the country. GST will make one nation, one tax a reality, she says. Taking a dig at the voices against GST, she asks whether they’re interested in progress in states.

4.10 pm: Words of caution coming from Nationalist Congress Party. NCP’s Supriya Sule asks whether there are protocols in place to protect taxpayers’ data. Any data breach from the GSTN — Goods and Services Tax Network, a repository of taxpayer data — can cost the country highly, she says.

3.50 pm: YSR Congress Party’s Varaprasad Rao asks government to take a relook at cess on consumer durables. The cess which may touch 48 percent will affect the common man, he says adding that higher cess on aerated drinks such as Pepsi too will affect masses.

Next, he asks if the government plans to bring alcohol and petroleum products under the GST umbrella

3.45 pm: Mulayam Singh Yadav stands up and goes off track — Takes up farmer suicides, prompting Raman Deka (in chair) to bring him back to GST debate. The Samajwadi Party supremo says GST does nothing for the rural population. Can the govt bring a legislation to tackle farmer suicides?” he asks.

3.30 pm: CPM’s Mohammed Salim targets GST Bill — it will only “increase inequality” between the rich and the poor, he says. It’s a unifying tax regime but one which divides people, he adds.

3.05 pm: As Lok Sabha debates GST, an important development in the auto industry has taken place. The Supreme Court has put a ban on sale of BS-III vehicles from April 1. The verdict seals the fate of nearly 1 million vehicles. Auto bodies say the ban will impact about 20,000 dealers financially and employment-wise and 9,00,000 vehicles.

Read more: Supreme Court bans sale of BS-III vehicles from April 1

3.00 pm: TRS leader from Chevalla, Konda Vishweswara Reddy compares GST with “Ugadi patchaddi” — a chutney served during Ugadi which marks the beginning of a new year. GST sweet, sour and bitter just like the chutney, he says. “It’s healthy and wholesome,” he says.

2.55 pm: Telugu Desam Party leader Jaydev Galla spells out the impact GST will have on Andhra Pradesh. He asks Finance Minister to explain by when CST dues will be paid to the state. Graduating from a new tax regime, welcome the proposal to set up special purpose vehicle, he adds. GST will usher in a new horizon, but implementation should be aligned with evolving mechanisms, he says.

2.50 pm: To bring you up to speed with the developments, here’s a timeline spelling out the course of GST in the past 11 years

GST Timeline: 11 years, 3 governments, 3 Finance Ministers

2.22 pm: Mahtab questions the GST Council’s decision to keep the clean environment cess as part of tax collections (which will be made available to all states) and says the Centre should increase royalty on mining of natural resources such as coal and pass it on to states such as Odisha where they are mined.

2.14 pm: Speaking of the BJD, the party, which has often had a blow-hot-blow-cold relationship with the BJP, is said to be growing wary of the national party’s increasing popularity in Odisha.

Unsurprisingly, the BJD MP is measuring his words while talking about the GST.

2.08 pm: BJD’s Bhartruhari Mahtab says that his party believes that it would be “illusory to believe the bill will bring about great change”.

“The benefits would be: fewer taxes, no cascading impact, free inter-state trade, comprehensive zero rating,” he says. “But do not expect too much from the GST. It all depends on the revenue neutral rate.”

“At the current rate structure, I do not think there will be great increase in tax collections or fall in prices.”

1.56 pm: West Bengal MP Kalyan Banerjee starts speaking, lauds the role of state FM Amit Mitra in bringing about consensus between states on the crucial tax, and gives him credit “for making sure businesses under Rs 1.5 crore remain under states’ purview.”

Mitra is the chairman of the GST Council.

Additionally, he says that it will not be easy to roll out GST as per its current July 1 deadline. He says that the government should considering deferring its launch to September 1. “July 1 is not the ending”.

1.50 pm: MP Babu expresses concerns over the structure of the GST Council, exemption of certain items (such as petroleum products) and the revenue neutral rate.

He, however, says the NDA government has taken considerable steps to assuage states’ concerns.

1.43 pm: While appearing to express support to the bill, the AIADMK MP says the tax rollout will be a technological challenge and says the government should make sure that any issues arising in the aftermath should be taken care of swiftly.

1.41 pm: The AIADMK had opposed passage of the GST Bill for a long time as Tamil Nadu, a manufacturing state, was seen as taking a big loss from the tax’s rollout.

1.38 pm: AIADMK MP TG Venkatesh Babu starts speaking, speaking homage to late party chief Jayalalithaa.

1.36 pm: The Delhi North West MP keeps on regurgitating the same talking points — he must have used the word ‘gamechanger’ at least five times in his speech — after which the speaker reminds him to end his speech.

“There are 12 members remaining to speak,” he says.

1.33 pm: Dr Raj also pooh-poohs the Congress’ charge that the government lost Rs 12 lakh crore due to the delay in GST’s rollout. “It is not because of us. It is because of you.”

1.26 pm: It must be noted that the BJP was opposed to the GST when the Congress-led UPA spearheaded the legislation. The two parties swapped their roles of being proponent and opponent of the draft law after their roles changed in 2014 as governing and opposition parties.

It must be, however, be pointed out that consensus between states was not arrived at during the UPA rule, and that FM Jaitley has gone to considerable lengths to assuage their concerns over compensation of losses.

“You left it (compensation) to us,” Dr Raj says.

1.22 pm: Udit Raj also criticises the Congress’ opposition to the GST, and says the party’s fears over tax’s potential for disruption is overstated.

He also says that had the UPA government ensured states’ losses from the CST rollout were compensated, GST would have been rolled out earlier.

1.16 pm: The GST’s four-rate tax structure — 5 percent, 12 percent, 18 percent and 28 percent — is intended to make sure there is minimal disruption from the tax’s rollout.

The government aims to make sure the GST rates for various goods and services are closest to their existing indirect tax rates.

Overall, though, experts expect the average rate for goods to fall while the tax rate for services may increase marginally.

1.12 pm: “The GST will create a national market and achieve the government’s dream of bringing tax terrorism to a close,” he says. “It will benefit the country’s 125 crore people as a single indirect tax rate for any single good or service will solve a lot of problems.”

1.06 pm: BJP’s Dr Udit Raj is now speaking.

1.04 pm: Moily also takes aim at the various exclusions in the GST, such as real estate being kept out of its ambit.

12.58 pm: Meanwhile, a close reading of the GST bills has given rise to worries that the draft laws have proposals that introduce newer forms of taxes on the formal sector.

For instance, e-commerce transactions are expected to come under the tax ambit. Further, this morning, there were reports that even previously-untaxed transactions, such as benefits provided to employees outside the CTC (such as food coupons or pick-up/drop services) will come in the bracket.

12.54 pm: Moily adds that the GST has fundamental contradictions with the Indian Constitution “as it abrogates its basic provisions”. He adds that the GST Council, which has been given the power to decide tax rates, is impeding on the Parliament’s legislative powers.

12.49 pm: Congress leader Veerappa Moily is speaking in Parliament now. Saying that the GST fails to live up to its promise of creating a national market, Moily maintains that the GST suffers from various problems. “It does not have a single tax rate,” he says. (The GST follows a four-rate tax structure).

Moily adds that backend too has not been prepared and says implementing it will be a “technological nightmare”.

“This is not a gamechanger. If anything, this is taking only baby steps [towards reforms].”

12.45 pm: The GST will replace a waft of indirect taxes and levies: from excise to VAT to service tax and bring in a single tax. This is expected to give a boost to the inter-state trade, which is currently suffering because of differential tax rates in various states.

Being value added in nature, it will also eliminate the problem of cascading taxes (tax on tax).

12.41 pm: The GST Bill has been 11 years in the making, been worked upon by three governments and as many finance ministers.

Here’s a detailed timeline outlining its journey.

12.38 pm: “The GST Bill will ensure free movement of goods across the country,” the FM says. “It will end tax terrorism”.

12.36 pm: The bills will head to the Rajya Sabha after they are passed in the Lower House. Post that, states and union territory assemblies will take up the bills for passage.

12.34 pm: A total of five bills — for taxes pertaining to centre, state, inter-state, union territory and compensation for states’ losses — will be taken up by the LS.

12.33 pm: The debate is expected to last a whopping eight to 10 hours as lawmakers take turns to raise their objections and provide suggestions. The Congress is expected to dig in its heels and has threatened to block its passage. The GOP, however, has little by way of strength in the LS.

12.32 pm: It promises to be a rivetting discussion (for bill watchers, at least) as the FM is expected to provide the most elaborate rationale behind various proposals of the bill.

12.30 pm: Welcome to the live coverage of the GST Bill, which has been taken up for discussion, consideration and passage in the Lok Sabha.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley kicks off the debate by introducing the bill to lawmakers.