Despite the Congress’ isolation from the rest of the Opposition, the chances of the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2014, being passed in the ongoing monsoon session of Parliament hinge on how things pan out in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday. With only two days left before the session ends, the Upper House will have to take up and clear the Bill, so that it could be sent for the Lok Sabha’s consideration on Thursday. On Tuesday, though the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government put the Bill on the table in the Rajya Sabha, the Bharatiya Janata Party renewed its attack on the Congress and the Gandhi family, ending any chance of consensus on a Bill that the Congress claims it broadly supports. Hoping to play on the division in the Opposition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid handsome tributes, in his address to the BJP parliamentary party, to the sagacity and wisdom of Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, who had a day before turned on the Congress, saying: “Enough is enough... We will not back you if you keep protesting.” Modi referred to the Gandhi family without naming it as “some people” who were bent upon misusing Parliament to stall the country’s economic growth, and said it was leaders like Yadav who had “understood this conspiracy”. “He (the PM) expressed his gratitude to those, especially Mulayam Singh Yadavji, who have felt that this is a conspiracy to stop the country’s progress. He hailed them and asked the party and members to do so as well,” said BJP leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy. That Opposition unity had splintered was clear in the Lok Sabha, where Pinaki Mishra of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) was among those who persisted in speaking above the din. In the Rajya Sabha, there was a brief respite when members like Naresh Aggarwal (SP) raised technical issues on the working of the House. The Congress allowed the issue of the stampede in Deoghar, Jharkhand, to be raised, but full-throated slogan-shouting quickly resumed and the Rajya Sabha was adjourned four times before being adjourned for the day. ALSO READ: Sound legislation The Congress, however, said unity in the Opposition was intact. “How many other parties did you see supporting the government when we were agitating in the Lok Sabha,” asked spokesman Abhishek Singhvi. Privately, the Congress referred to Yadav as ‘khudai khidmatgar’ (more loyal than the king), and even Yadav thought he might have overdone it by demanding in the Lok Sabha that if the socio-economic caste census was not tabled in Parliament, he and his supporters would have to agitate. ALSO READ: Land acquisition, GST delays hamper Modi's 'port-led' export drive Overall, the mood in the Opposition was not to allow the government to move forward on GST. Congress President Sonia Gandhi told her MPs in the Lok Sabha: “Don’t give up”. The argument of the Congress and the Left parties was that before introducing the Bill, the views of the select committee of Parliament that discussed the Bill and contributed several dissent notes should have been considered. This was not done and the government went ahead and introduced the bill amid confusion on the floor of the House.
Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge said not just MPs but ministers descended into the well of the House and attempted to assault Congress MPs. In the Lok Sabha, the government tried another strategy.
It introduced a motion on corruption but under a rule that entailed no voting. This was immediately challenged by the Congress, which said the discussion would have meaning only if it was discussed with voting to follow. "People should know who stands where on corruption - and this can only be possible if there is voting" said a Congress leader. ALSO READ: Sonia, Rahul holding Parliament hostage to their ego: BJP
Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee was in Delhi on Tuesday and visited Parliament. Her party supports GST. The party supports GST. But when she was asked if the bill would pass in the monsoon session she did not answer. She just laughed loud and long. In the lobbies, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was asked for his outlook for the next two days — what would the Opposition do? “What they have done in the past 20 days,” he replied briefly. There was some talk of a special session of Parliament to pass the constitution amendment Bill. However, unless the Congress is on board, the requirement of a two-thirds majority makes even that a risky proposition. THE TWEAKED GST BILL What has changed
- An additional tax of up to one per cent over GST is to be levied on inter-state trade or commerce; against earlier provision for inter-state movement of goods
- States to be compensated entirely for losses in the first 5 years. Earlier, this provision was for three years, to be reduced to 75% of losses in the fourth year and 50% in fifth
What has not changed
- Alcohol for consumption outside GST
- GST to be levied on petroleum later
- Composition of GST council