ArunJaitley, Ananth Kumar set to hold GST meet with Congressmen

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Finance minister Arun Jaitley and parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar are set to meet Congress leaders within days with a set of fresh proposals aimed at breaking the political deadlock over the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill.

This follows Kumar reaching out to Congress leaders, expressing the desire for resuming the negotiations, sources said.

On the contentious issue of Congress insisting on capping the GST rate in the Constitution Amendment Bill itself, the government side, sources said, was considering two alternative suggestions- either to put the GST rate limit on the subordinate rules for the GST Bill or to include the provision of the rate cap in the Central GST Bill that will have to follow the main Constitution Amendment Bill.

If the rate cap is fixed in the main Constitution Amendment Bill, it will require a two-thirds majority in both the Houses each time to amend the cap limit. But, if rate cap is fixed only in Central GST Bill, it can be amended with a simple majority vote in the Lok Sabha (as in the case of Finance Bill).

For rolling out GST, the Constitution (Amend) Bill has to enacted by Parliament (along with the supporting Central GST Bill, State GST Bill and inter-State GST Bill) and endorsed by 50  per cent of state assemblies.

While the main effort would be to break the deadlock over the rate cap, as an ice-breaking incentive, the government is leant to have informally conveyed its willingness to formally accept two other Congress demands- drop the proposed 1 per cent inter-state tax and to tweak the proposed structure of GST Disputes Settlement Authority to make the dispute redressal mechanism more independent.

This is the first time the government has proposed to meet the Congress on GST Bill since the failure of the November 2015 meeting the PM and FM held with Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to find a solution.

The monsoon session of Parliament is scheduled to start on July 18. Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad, his deputy Anand Sharma, Congress floor leader in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge are among those likely to meet Jaitley and Kumar.

On their part, Azad and Sharma have reached out to leaders of JD(U), CPM, DMK and RJD as part of firming up their floor coordination during the session.

When asked about reports of ‘a senior government functionary’ welcoming his comment about “ringfencing” the GST rate, Anand Sharma told ET, “let it be clear to one and all that when I talked about ring fencing GST rate, what I meant is legally ring-fencing the GST rate cap in the Bill so that it can’t be changed without a consensus in Parliament”.


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