NEW DELHI — The Narendra Modi government put all it had into passing the GST bill and still failed to get past an united opposition in the Rajya Sabha, who insisted on further legislative scrutiny. In other words, this bill is stalled for now.
The bill has now been referred to a select committee, comprising 21 members, and where the government is in a minority. The panel will give its report only by the first week of the monsoon session. If the government disagrees with the recommendations, the bill might be delayed further down the year.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the motion for referring the bill to the Select Committee, after Congress members made it clear that they will not back the bill with its existing provisions. The GST bill was approved by Lok Sabha on Wednesday last after a walkout by Congress.
While the government was keen that GST is approved as early as possible, it wanted to do it with the widest-possible consensus without appearing confrontationist. That is important, because its implementation would require full cooperation of state governments, some of which are headed by chief ministers of rival parties. However, it clearly did not foresee the strength of opposition parties who are opposed to certain provisions of the bill that the Modi government has introduced.
Being a Constitution amendment bill, it requires to be passed by both Houses of Parliament by a two-third majority.
Once passed by Parliament, the Bill will then need ratification of more than half of 29 states before scheduled roll out in April next year.
The Committee constitutes of Bhupender Yadav, Chandan Mitra and Ajay Sancheti (of BJP), Madhusudan Mistry, Mani Shankar Aiyar and Bhalchandra Mungekar (of Congress), Naresh Agrawal (SP), K C Tyagi (JD-U), Derek O'Brien (Trinamool Congress), Satish Chandra Misra (BSP), A Navaneethakrishnan (AIADMK), K N Balagopal (CPI-M), Dilip Kumar Tirkey (BJD), C M Ramesh (TDP), Praful Patel (NCP), Kanimozhi (DMK), Anil Desai (Shiv Sena), Naresh Gujral (SAD), Mohammad Fayaz (PDP), D Raja (CPI), Rajeev Chandrasekhar (Independent).
GST was first mooted 12 years ago but couldn't be approved as states feared curbs on their fiscal powers. Jaitley had made this a priority and had held discussions with all chief ministers but did not manage to bring key opposition figures on board.