GST : Monsoon session could derail GST deadline

Earlier this year, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley made an impassioned plea in the Lok Sabha to pass the goods and service tax (GST) Bill. If the House did not pass it, he warned, the Constitution Amendment Bill would not clear the April 2016 deadline when it must be rolled out. That fear might well come true.

Competitive politics over Bihar — where an election is due in October- November — is likely to dominate the monsoon session and little business will get done, especially in the Rajya Sabha, members of Parliament (MPs) say.

After the Lok Sabha passed the GST Bill and the Rajya Sabha opted to send it to a select committee, Congress leader Anand Sharma gave a solemn assurance to the government that the committee would give its report at the end of the first week of the monsoon session. The chairman of the committee, SS Ahluwalia, has already sought one extension. “The body language of the members of the select committee suggests that even if all objections of the Congress, such as the revenue – neutral rate of a high 20 per cent and a rollback of Section 18 of the Bill that imposes an additional tax of one per cent on goods in the course of inter- state trade that will be assigned to the states, are accepted, the Bill will not pass muster.” he said. The All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) is opposed to the Bill in principle.

The Congress, which has 12 state governments out of 29, has reservations about the Bill in its present form. It is unlikely the Congress will vote differently in the states and Parliament. So, even in the unlikely event of the government resorting to a joint session of Parliament to clear the Bill, it will have to mount a further struggle to have it cleared by 50 per cent of the states. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has only eight state governments. In the current political environment, the support of alliance partners — in Andhra Pradesh or Punjab, for instance —is not a given.

The recent Assembly by polls have played a role in sharpening the opposition edge. Although the Congress won the Aruvikkara seat in Kerala, the real winner of the election was the BJP, which came third but quadrupled its vote- share. The CPI(M), which came second, could improve its tally only by 197 votes. This has set alarm bells ringing in the CPI(M) and it is even more determined to stand in clear opposition to the BJP, which is fast becoming its primary threat in Kerala. The Bihar election is a chance to attack the BJP politically and the mood is likely to be set in the monsoon session. Three important Bills – on real estate Bill, GST and land acquisition – have to be passed in the monsoon session. However, the chances of this happening look bleak in the Rajya Sabha. –

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