Modi Government Reaches Out to Congress Over GST Bill

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Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu reached out to Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad ahead of the monsoon session, which starts on Monday.


Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to senior Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad on Thursday to seek his support for the passage of GST Bill. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: Ahead of the monsoon session of parliament, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government reached out to the Congress party on Thursday to break the deadlock over the long-pending Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill.

Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu spoke to senior Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma. Both Congress leaders assured Naidu that they will get back to him soon after consultations within their party.

This is the second such attempt in the last one week before the monsoon session starts on Monday, July 18. The government is keen to pass the constitutional amendment bill to roll out GST in the upcoming session.

According to Mint, when asked about the conversation with Naidu on Thursday, Azad told reporters, “We spoke. I cannot say what is going to happen without having a meeting [with the government] and discussing at our party level as well as our allies and others.”

Union minister Nitin Gadkari has expressed confidence that the crucial GST bill will be passed in the coming monsoon session of Parliament as he highlighted the various reform measures implemented by the government to boost economic growth and attract billions of dollars of foreign investment and technical expertise across sectors.

“GST is the most important issue and I am confident that in the coming session of the Parliament we will pass the bill as a lot of parties are supporting it,” Gadkari said at a press conference.

The government is scheduled to hold a formal meeting with Congress leaders on the bill. If it happens, it would be the first such meeting since November, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

The proposed tax reform, India’s biggest revenue shake-up since independence in 1947, seeks to replace a slew of federal and state levies, transforming the nation into a Customs Union.

Since November, according to The Economic Times, the Congress has been insisting that a specified GST rate of 18% should be capped in the Constitutional Amendment Bill, the 1% additional tax abolished and a GST Disputes Settlement Authority formed to settle state disputes.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley has, however, consistently maintained that nowhere in the world are tax rates put in the Constitution and the government needs to have flexibility to change the rates in case of contingencies like natural calamities.

The NDA government has already called for an all-party meeting on July 17 to discuss the upcoming session. The top leadership of Congress is also holding internal discussions on the issue.

On Wednesday, party leaders held a meeting to deliberate on the strategy for the session with party president Gandhi at her residence where the GST was also discussed. Official sources said a host of issues ranging from information sharing on fishermen, search and rescue operations and pollution response were also discussed at the meeting.

Senior leaders in the government say that with the support of 72 members of Parliament (MPs) belonging to various non-Congress parties and 15 nominated and independent MPs, the NDA, with its 72 MPs, is within striking distance of the required two-thirds majority in the Rajya Sabha, which has a strength of 245 MPs.

(With PTI inputs)

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