Opposition says will fight GST, land Bills in Parliament

With various controversies involving top Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders coming to light, both the goods and services tax (GST) constitutional amendment Bill and the land acquisition Bill are unlikely to clear Parliament in the monsoon session.Both Bills are with parliamentary committees. Members of the panels say increasingly, it seems the Congress will oppose both the pieces of legislation. Concerned about being seen as supporting the BJP, other opposition parties such as the Biju Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress (TMC) are likely to side with the Congress.A senior TMC leader told BusinessStandard in an environment in which clouds of controversy surrounded senior BJP members, it was unlikely that much would be done in the monsoon session of Parliament, beginning July 21.Besides, what has ominous implications for the process of reforms is reasoned criticism is also becoming a basis for opposing the government’s moves. In an article in The Indian Express, former finance minister P Chidambaram had listed the Congress’s reservations about the BJP’s GST Bill: that a 28 per cent effective GST rate was too high and would hit the services sector; excluding petroleum from the GST would render it toothless; and the one per cent additional tax on inter- state sales was a “ retrograde provision (that) negates the very character of GST (as) a destination- based tax”.Opposition leaders say for the Congress, the land acquisition Bill and the fact that it dilutes the social impact analysis clauses is a political cause célèbre and the party will fight the Bill tooth and nail.Speaking to Business Standard,Congress communications chief Randeep Surjewala didn’t mince his words. “ The BJP’s obduracy and rigidity will definitely lead to obstruction in the smooth functioning of Parliament. Congress supports the GST but it can only be taken up when it is acceptable to states; after all, they are the main stakeholders.Also, it can be rolled out when the five conditions clearly stated by the Congress in public interest are accommodated.As for the land Bill, the BJP and the prime minister have to shed their obstinacy in helping corporates at the cost of farmers. In its present form, the land Bill is completely non- negotiable and unacceptable.” In the US, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had referred to the possibility of calling a joint session of Parliament for the two pieces of legislation. Apart from the fact that one is a Bill to amend the Constitution ( experts are divided on whether it can be passed in a joint session), alogjam between the two Houses has to be established before a joint session can be convened.Recently, Communist Party of India chief Sitaram Yechury had indicated opposition parties’ strategy when he said the Rajya Sabha would neither pass the Bills nor let them fall. – www.business-standard.com

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