NEW DELHI -- Following a complete washout of the Monsoon Session, the government is now seeking to schedule a two-day session of the Parliament next month in a bid to pass the Goods and Services Tax Bill. The GST Bill is seen as a crucial piece of tax reform that the Modi government wants to introduce to improve ease of business. However, the opposition's stalling of Parliament proceedings ensured the bill did not get passage.
According to reports, the BJP government has already reached out to some political parties for this special two-day session to pass the GST, though members of the Congress party have alleged that they have not been consulted on any such move yet. During a press conference on Thursday, finance minister Arun Jaitley said that the option of meeting at short notice was open as the Cabinet committee on political affairs will not prorogue Parliament.
The government needs support from other political parties at the Rajya Sabha, where it does not enjoy a majority, for such a session to be called. If two-thirds of the upper house vote in favour of the bill, which is a constitutional amendment, it can be passed. This means that there also needs to be order in the house during voting, which may be difficult with several Congress MPs present. The bill was passed in the lower house of the Parliament earlier in May this year.
The government does not need the support of Congress if it is able to get enough allies from other parties. Congress has so far disrupted proceedings through the Monsoon Session, demanding answers from the government on the Sushma Swaraj-Lalit Modi scandal.
Congress has 68 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, which is a serious stumbling block for the government. If the government is able to count on major parties like the AIADMK, Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress, Biju Janata Dal and the Left, it may be able to push the bill.
On Thursday, Jaitley said that his government was determined to roll out GST from April next year. For that to happen, three other legislations (one by the Centre, two by states) need to be passed and half the state assemblies need to give consent as well.
Dipping Productivity Of Parliament
Both houses of Parliament this session were extremely unproductive. While the lower house functioned less than half the time — its productivity was at 48 percent — the Rajya Sabha was at a dismal nine percent. Only about a percentage of the Question Hour was used in the 17-day session at Rajya Sabha, while Lok Sabha used 52 percent of its scheduled time, according to policy research centre PRS Legislative.
While eight of the nine bills planned for introduction to the Parliament were added, only one bill, the Delhi High Court (Amendment) Bill, 2014, was passed out of the 12 in queue. This is the lowest since the winter session of Parliament in 2010.