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GST Bill: Govt for 5-and-half-hour debate in RS, meet with Cong leaders

The National Democratic Alliance government is taking all steps possible to push the GST Bill in the current Parliament session, with the Business Advisory Committee of Rajya Sabha setting aside five-and-half hours to debate the legislation. The date of the debate, however, has not been decided.

The government also promised to engage with the Congress to resolve pending issues. A meeting is likely between Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma on Tuesday (19 July), the PTI reported.

However, Sharma said he has not yet heard anything from the government about Tuesday's meeting.

Anand Sharma. PTI

Anand Sharma said Comgress is "constructively engaged" with govt on GST. PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday also vowed to work for a consensus on the passage of the GST bill which he said was in the interest of the states.

At a meeting of the NDA constituents, he said the government will talk to all parties and seek to build a consensus for its passage.

Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters that Modi explained to NDA leaders the importance of the GST bill and the need to pass it.

"All parties (of NDA) are together on the GST bill. The PM explained to them its importance and the need to pass it," he said.

According to official sources, the government will hold more meetings with Opposition parties to build a consensus on the GST bill.

"On our part, we have made it clear to all political parties that we are ready for more discussions and have an open mind. We are ready to go the extra mile to build consensus over the GST bill," a senior minister told PTI after the meeting.

"All political parties appear positive for passing the GST bill," he said.

Meanwhile, brightening the chance for the passage of the bill, the Congress on Monday said it was "constructively engaged" with the government on the issue but wanted to prevent the executive from "tinkering" with the proposed tax reform.

"The Congress has insisted on a cap on the GST rate. We are very clear that there has to be a cap and there should not be any tinkering with that rate of GST. We will not leave it to the Executive or the Government of the day on its own to change that. That is why we have said it has to be firmly ring-fenced," senior Congress spokesman Anand Sharma said.

He said the Bill will bring about unprecedented, sweeping changes in the taxation structure and the manner in which indirect taxes like excise, service tax, sales tax or VAT are levied.

"We need to have clarity therefore about the levies of these taxes. The threshold which is acceptable to Indian economy, the consumer and the industry, that is why the Congress Party has insisted on capping it. We hope the government has registered a very legitimate demand of the Congress Party which has rich merit," he said.

Noting that his party is "constructively engaged" with the government on the pending tax reform legislation, Sharma said, "Discussions with the government on the Bill are ongoing and we are waiting for the next meeting on the issue. Government, on its part, was to reach their own internal decision about the nature of response on Congress concerns and demands."

Sharma said the party will now wait for the next meeting which will be a formal consultation where the government would give a concrete response to take forward the matter.

Asked whether the Congress was softening its stand on GST, he said, "Congress is inherently pragmatic" and that it had never said it would not support the Bill.

Sharma accused the BJP of having opposed the GST Bill in the past due to its "partisan politics". He also said the Modi government had been "non-engaged, confrontationist and arrogant" on the issue but the Congress stand was "principled" and had "merit".

"We have also said that unlike the present ruling dispensation - the BJP - which opposed it for partisan politics, the Congress opposition is principled and has rich merit on all the issues that we have raised. And that is why we are now engaged constructively," he said.

"The government was non-engaged, confrontationist and arrogant. Instead of seeking our support, the PM and his senior colleagues were insulting and berating our leaders. Their attitude is changing," he said.

Sharma said the government agreed to discuss the unrest in Kashmir, an issue of national importance, in Rajya Sabha on the first day and "this is good start for consensus building".

With PTI


Published Date: Jul 19, 2016 09:01 AM | Updated Date: Jul 19, 2016 09:01 AM

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