The Congress party has reiterated its earlier stand on the bill for a national goods and services tax (GST) — that it is for the concept but the particulars would have to be on the lines it has demanded all this while, with no compromise on its side.
It has said so even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is exuding confidence that the legislation would be voted through in the second half of the ongoing session of Parliament.
Says Randeep Surjewala, the Congress’ communications head, “Jaitley ji must be having some magic formula to manufacture votes. “
The Bharatiya Janata Party-led government is well short of the needed numbers in the Rajya Sabha, when the Bill is pending. The Lok Sabha has passed the measure.
Surjewala added Jaitley’s confidence could stem from the BJP’s alleged friendship with the Trinamool Congress (TMC). “He must be banking on TMC support. Remember, it was Mamata Banerjee (the TMC chief and Bengal chief minister) who helped the government pass the Mines and Minerals Bill.”
On Tuesday, too, Surjewala while addressing the press in West Bengal, had said, “Political opportunism defines the tacit understanding between Trinamool and BJP.“
The Congress on Wednesday rejected government claims that it had reached out to the former on GST. Asserting their “conditions” were in the best interest of the public, Surjewala said people were already reeling under the burden of a 15 per cent service tax. Therefore the Congress wanted a cap of 18 per cent on the GST rate, to be specified in the Bill. Also, provision for a one per cent additional tax to be done away with, something which the government’s own chief economic advosro was also for. And, it wanted a neutral dispute redressal authority.
“We are ready to pass GST in this session, provided our conditions are met,” said Surjewala. Adding: “Jaitley is falsely naming the Congress as opposing the GST. In fact, it is the RSS (the BJP’s ideological mentor) which has red-flagged GST.”
The government is keen to have the Constitutional amendment on GST cleared quickly; the Congress is the main block.