BJP reaches out to Cong on reconvening House for GST
FM Jaitley meets PM Modi after Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu sounds Mallikarjun Kharge on special session
New Delhi: In a desperate effort to push through reforms to counter the adverse global development, Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday sounded the main Opposition party Congress for reconvening the monsoon session to get the GST Bill passed in Parliament.
As Bloomberg TV India first reported on August 17, the government is thinking of reconvening the House for four days any time after Rakhsa Bandhan (August 29) to debate and pass the GST Bill.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu spoke to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge on the special session. Kharge has made it clear that Congress members will attend the special session only if the government tweaks the GST Bill to incorporate the suggestions made by Congress including a lower 18 percent revenue neutral GST rate, scrapping of the extra one per cent levy over GST and inclusion of tobacco and electricity in the new tax regime.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley along with Naidu met Prime Minister Narendra Modi to chart out the government strategy.
If the Opposition parties like Congress does not agree to the special session, the government may advance the winter session of Parliament to give lawmakers enough time to debate and pass key reform Bills.
On August 13, both the Houses of Parliament were adjourned sine die (indefinitely) after the main Opposition Congress stalled proceedings and prevented legislative business to be conducted.
Since both Houses were adjourned sine die, Parliament can be reconvened.
Key reforms initiated by the Modi government, which has an overwhelming majority in Lok Sabha, have been stalled by a minority Congress Party on the issue of Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj's involvement in LalitGate scandal.
Monsoon session was a washout due to disruptions by Congress members. Even though Lok Sabha debated the LalitGate issue at length on August 12, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi continued to attack the government including the Prime Minister for trying to protect former IPL chief Lalit Modi and their ministers. The party staged a protest outside Parliament demanding resignation of Swaraj along with Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers.
The biggest casualty of the political impasse is the government's GST Bill. Although Finance Minister Arun Jaitley moved the Constitutional (One Hundred Twenty Second Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha, it could not be taken up for debate and passage due to continuous disruptions by the Congress-led Opposition parties. This has put the government on a difficult spot in rolling out the country's biggest tax reform from April 2016.
GST is perceived to improve tax compliance, raise revenues of the government, help lower inflation and accelerate GDP growth by 1-2 percentage points.
The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill or the Land Acquisition Bill was earlier pushed back to the winter session as the parliamentary Select Committee sought more time to complete its report.
The delay in the Land Bill was despite the fact that government accepted Opposition demand to drop 5-6 crucial amendments such as the need for consent of the displaced and social impact assessment (SIA) and exemption from SIA for acquiring land one kilometre on either side of an industrial corridor.
Apart from the GST and Land Bills, the Real Estate Bill also could not be taken up in Lok Sabha as Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it won't be appropriate for the government to take it up for debate or passage after Congress members walked out of the House.
The Parliament was stalled as 10 major Opposition parties including Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), Trinamool Congress and CPI (M) boycotted Lok Sabha after the Speaker suspended 25 Congress members for disrupting the House.