The Congress is not inclined to move any amendments to the GST enabling bills in the Rajya Sabha before they are returned to the Lok Sabha but may support the amendments moved by other opposition parties. Sources said the party leaders will meet tomorrow to decide on whether to support the amendments moved by other parties on GST bills. The Congress’ top leadership discussed the issue at length today and decided not to press or move any amendments in the four GST enabling bills. Congress president Sonia Gandhi chaired the meeting.
It was for the the first time that Sonia Gandhi attended a strategy meet since her return from abroad after medical treatment. During the meeting, sources said, the top party leaders discussed various aspects of GST bills and came to the view that the party would not oppose those since the first GST bill proposed by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee included the proposal for formation of the GST Council.
However, party vice president Rahul Gandhi met CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury in the afternoon and discussed the opposition strategy to be adopted in the Upper House. Congress leader Jairam Ramesh has moved an amendment to the GST bills to include that anything passed by the GST Council should also get parliamentary approval. “It was discussed and a consensus emerged where it was decided that this amendment is not going to be taken forward as the Congress Party’s amendment,” party spokesperson Rajeev Gowda told reporters. He said it is not going to be pressed because ultimately it opens up issues with regard to powers of Parliament and those of the GST Council “as the states also could come forward and say we also want to ratify whatever is being proposed to be passed. This will be like going back in a particular manner”. Gowda said the purpose of the amendment is that Parliament should be kept in the loop on the decision regarding financial legislation “but it seems that this Amendment will not be pressed in the interest of federal structure of the country”. Meanwhile, the Congress has urged the government to keep indirect taxes under the new GST regime “low and affordable” so that these do not lead to rise in inflation which will hurt the poor the most. Gowda hoped the implementation of the GST legislation will lead to a “one nation, one tax” regime that will help in the growth of the country’s economy and in creation of jobs. “We have to make sure those indirect taxes which are what the GST regime is all about, are kept manageable, affordable and that they are not inflationary. “Inflationary impact hurts the poor the most. Indirect taxes are fundamentally regressive and so we urge the government to pay attention to reducing taxes,” he said. He said this government has a “terrible record” when it comes to indirect taxation. The Congress leader hoped that the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime would lead to a drop in the number of tax slabs in a time-bound manner. Gowda said while the tax rates in India are routinely 18 per cent, in developed countries these are less than 17 per cent. In the emerging economies, these rates average around 16.6 per cent. Gowda also hoped that during the transition period, the government will make sure that tax payers are enabled to participate in the GST regime in the smoothest possible manner.
He said this bill will enable elimination of inter-state check-posts and facilitate smooth movement of traffic and freight between the states.
Money Control, 05 April 2017