The govt may have just cobbled up numbers
The long-pending Goods and Services Tax Bill might just get a clean chit from the parliament on August 3. The bill proposes to introduce a single indirect tax regime across the country.
The reason the government is hoping to pass the bill in the Rajya Sabha where it does not have the numbers is that the Congress, which is the main opposition party, has confirmed its support to the bill. Both the BJP and the Congress have issued whips, asking members to be present in the House when the Bill is tabled.
The Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014, is considered to be the single biggest tax reform since Independence that will make India one economic entity. Now, there would be only one tax—monitored at the national level. It will be levied at the final point of consumption and not at the manufacturing stage. Whether one is in Delhi or in Tamil Nadu, one has to pay this tax.
GST will replace all indirect taxes—be it excise duty, octroi, VAT, service tax or any other state level taxes. This will be a big project and implementing it will take time.
According to media reports, finance minister Arun Jaitley had called a fresh round of talks on August 1 with the Congress to bring it to consensus over the bill. In the Rajya Sabha, the bill needs the votes of two-thirds of its members—that is 173.
Once the upper house passes it, the bill will reach the Lok Sabha. It must then be cleared by the President. A GST council will then be established to look after the rolling out of the tax across the country. It will have members representing the states and the center.
Only 10 days are left before the end of the monsoon session. Passing this bill during the winter meet will be a bigger challenge—with all political parties at war over the state elections. The BJP, too, has ordered full attendance in the Rajya Sabha for three days.
The Vajpayee government in 2000 had set up a committee headed by Asim Dasgupta, the then finance minister for West Bengal, to plan and design a model for GST. Later, P Chidambaram, finance minister in the UPA government, had announced during the 2006-07 budget session that a GST Bill will be introduced in the parliament.
By Srishti Sonewal