GST stalled, Arun Jaitley says Congress hurting economy

GST bill, Arun Jaitley, GST tax, Congress, Goods and Services Tax, Narendra Modi govt, BJP, BJP government, india news, latest news, top stories Finance Minister Arun Jaitley

With time running out for the GST Bill in a stalled Parliament, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Sunday attacked the Congress for blocking the legislation that it had itself brought in, and warned that “obstructionist” tendencies and “negativism” were hurting the country and its economy.

“The Congress party should accept and seriously introspect after having ruled the country for the longest period of time, that negativism hurts the country. Should its obstructionist tendencies inflict an economic injury on the country?” he wrote in a Facebook post titled
‘Dissent or Disruption — The Congress Party’s Position on GST’.

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“It was the Congress-led UPA government that proposed the GST in the 2006-07 Budget. The constitution amendment was piloted by the UPA… Is it only out of an obstructionist attitude that the Congress party has adopted a negative role?” he said, adding that he was forced to put up a public post as even though Parliament was in session, it was not functioning.

His post came on the eve of an all-party meeting called by the government to break the stalemate. The government needs Parliament to approve the constitution amendment Bill in the ongoing Monsoon Session so that the new regime is rolled out from April 1, 2016, and a nationwide Goods and Services Tax (GST) can replace all existing indirect taxes like excise and VAT.

Parliamentary has been unable to function for the past two weeks with the Opposition raising issues such as the Lalit Modi controversy and the Vyapam scam.

Senior BJP leaders and ministers Nirmala Sitharaman and M Venkaiah Naidu also took on the Congress. Seeking to drive a wedge in the Opposition front, they said the Congress was alone in disrupting parliamentary proceedings while the others looked forward to a debate on important issues in the House.

Sitharaman said the Congress could take an “honourable exit” from its intrasigent stand by agreeting to a debate on External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, though she ruled out any discussion on the Vyapam scam saying it concerned a state.

Naidu, who was in Hyderabad, said, “As far as the government (is concerned), we have not done anything wrong, nothing illegal, nothing immoral has been done by any of our ministers. We are ready to discuss any issue at any length… The government is always ready to walk an extra mile to accommodate the view of the Opposition, if their request is fair.”

The Congress and its leader “may be upset with the government for political reasons. They may be upset with the electorate for the 2014 verdict”, Jaitley wrote.

Giving an eight-point rebuttal of the dissent note on the Bill by Congress members of the Rajya Sabha Select Committee, the finance minister said their suggestions were not part of even former finance minister Pranab Mukherjee’s Bill or that of his successor P Chidambaram’s proposal.

While there may be some rationale in the 18 per cent rate recommended by the Congress, he said, the decision has to be taken by the GST Council and cannot be a part of the Constitution. “The rates will vary depending on a host of factors,” he said.

Jaitley further said that the Congress demand that the term “supply” not apply to goods and services supplied by one unit of a firm to another of the same firm was also not part of the previous Bills by Mukherjee or Chidambaram.

He also ruled out the Congress proposal to include the share of local bodies in revenue in the proposed constitution amendment, pointing out that it runs contrary to the 73rd Amendment of the Constitution, which provided for setting up state finance commissions with the mandate to make such recommendations.

Similarly, Jaitley said, the proposal that a state or Union territory with or without a legislature having a population not exceeding 20 lakh be given special status was never Mukherjee’s or Chidambaram’s.

The minister also countered the Congress demand that electricity, tobacco products and alcohol for human consumption should be given the same treatment as petroleum in the amendment Bill on the same grounds.

Rejecting the Congress proposal that voting representation of states in the GST Council be increased from two-thirds to three-fourths, he said it would reduce the Centre’s voting power from one-third to one-fourth and is contrary to Chidambaram’s proposal in April 2013.
“Is it the Congress proposal that the Union should cease to economically survive? Is it their proposal that the Centre should have no say in the system of national taxation?” he said.

Jaitley said the power of deciding the modalities of adjudication and settlement of disputes in the present Bill is with the GST Council.

“Political issues have to be settled politically and not by judges,” he stressed.

The Congress has also asked for deletion of a two-year transient provision which provided for an additional tax of 1 per cent to be credited to the exporting state. But Jaitley said it was based on a unanimous decision of the empowered committee, to which all Congress-ruled states had agreed.

The Indian Express