GST In Lok Sabha Today: Government Braces For Fierce Opposition To Bill

05/05/2015 8:19 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
A flag flies in front of the Kuala Lumpur Tower during an anti-GST (Goods and Service Tax) protest in downtown Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, May 1, 2015. The government implemented a goods and service tax of six percent on April 1. (AP Photo/Joshua Paul)

NEW DELHI — Government could breathe easy on the Goods and Services Tax Bill in Lok Sabha today with Trinamool Congress pledging its support to the key economic reform measure even as several opposition parties, including Congress, BJD and the Left, are sticking to the demand to refer it to the Standing Committee.

"Standing Committee and Select Committee have already taken a view on the measure. So there is no point sending it again to the Standing Committee," Trinamool Congress leader Derek O' Brien told PTI when asked about the party's stand on the issue.

He said that the government has promised compensation to states due to the roll-out of GST.

"In our manfiesto in 2009, 2011, 2014, we had committed to support the GST. West Bengal is a high-consumption state in terms of liquor, tobacco, petroleum," he said making it clear that Trinamool Congress will back the government on the issue.

On April 26 when the Bill was moved in Lok Sabha by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, members of Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi, along with those of TMC, Left and NCP had staged a walk out after their plea for referring the Constitution amendment Bill to the Standing Committee was not accepted.

The protest of Trinamool Congress, was then, however, on the technicalities, and not on the content of the bill.

AIADMK and BJD also opposed its consideration but did not walk out. Congress has been trying to reach out to these two parties to make a common cause.

BJD leader Bhartuhari Mahatab said that his party was firm in the demand to refer it to the Select Committee as it it is a "new bill" because it has a number of new provisions which have not been deliberated so far.

Besides, he said that BJD has also given certain amendments on issues realted to tobacco and minerals.

With the budgetary exercise in the Lower House over, government has listed the bill for consideration there tomorrow. Government is hopeful of support from some opposition parties and was particularly reaching out parties other than Left and Congress which have governments in states.

The real legislative challenge for the government will be in Rajya Sabha where it does not have a majority.

Government has been giving indications that it is willing to make some concessions to get the key measure through.

"GST brings national integration on tax. But in order to make a larger reform, you will have to make certain concessions," Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu had said a few days ago.

As GST would be a destination-based tax, manufacturing states like Gujarat, Maharasthra and Tamil Nadu have expressed the fear that they may lose out on revenue.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Second Amendment) Bill, 2014 was moved for consideration in the Lower House on April 24 amid stiff resistance of the Opposition which wanted the bill in respect of GST to be referred to a Standing Commmittee.

Moving the enabling bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said it is a "win-win" measure and states have nothing to fear.

Congress, which has said that GST was its "baby", is adamant that since new provisions have been brought into the bill, it must go a Standing Committee.

"GST is our baby. We do not oppose as a matter of policy.

What we are opposing is the procedure. The Standing Committee route is being bypassed," the party has said.

When implemented, GST is expected to eliminate several logistical logjams and vastly increase the speed of freight, as a World Bank study showed Indian truckers lose millions of operating hours a year stuck at interstate checkpoints, creating more opportunities for harassment and bribe-taking.

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