GST bill cannot be rushed through: Cong

GST bill cannot be rushed through: Cong

GST bill cannot be rushed through: Cong

Congress today said its demand for inclusion of 18 per cent tax cap in the GST bill did not mean it is "non-negotiable" but refused to give a timeline on its passage, saying such important legislations "cannot be rushed through".

"We have never used the word non-negotiable. We felt there is a need for a cap. There is need for ring-fencing it and an absolute guarantee that it will not be tinkered with...
"From what I gather, the Congress President did not use the word non-negotiable, but made it very clear that we would like to have it," Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma told Karan Thapar on India Today TV.

His comments came a day after former Commerce and Industry Minister Kamal Nath said BJP's hesitation to put an 18 per cent cap in the Goods and Services Tax(GST) in the Constitution is a "sticking point" in thrashing out a solution.

Sharma, a former Union Commerce minister, said the GST Bill will "eventually happen" but refused to give a time-frame when asked whether the measure will become a reality in the ongoing Winter Session of Parliament.

"No, I can't say that. You do not rush through such important Constitutional amendments. We would like to see the amendments in-built with the GST Bill. Where is the GST Bill? It is still work in progress...Why should we rush through. Let's see," he said, insisting that Congress would like to see government's proposal on suggestions made by it on the key reform measure.

Asked if there were any hopes of its passage in Winter Session, Sharma said, "If there is a consensus. It is good. We want the GST. Let me make it clear that we will support GST."
He said "we have to give the country a GST, an effective GST that creates a common market and brings down the transaction cost".

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad told CNN-IBN, "We cannot give a timeline and particular date. The ball is in government's court. It depends on how much they address the concerns of the principal opposition party and other major parties as well."

On the vexed issue of putting the 18 per cent cap in the Constitution amendment, he insisted on "some legislative binding" on the government so that it cannot change the tax cap through an executive order. He at the same time appeared open to some other 'credible alternative' to address the issue.

Maintaining that while he does not see any alternative other than the constitutional amendment for achieving this objective, Azad said that should be the case "unless government comes out with an equally tough amendment".

While Sharma criticised the government for engaging with the opposition on only one issue in the last 18 months, he said that "the doors are not shut" from Congress's side and the party is expecting the ruling dispensation to come out with its proposal on the measure.

"One meeting in 18 months for the passage of just one bill does not bring about a paradigm shift," the Congress leader said, adding that the Prime Minister's "sincerity" will have to be "tested" in the coming weeks and months on the issue of engaging with the opposition.

He also attacked Modi over the intolerance debate and the controversial remarks by some ministers despite his assurance in Parliament, saying, "The Prime Minister should live up to his assurances. So far, I'm not convinced that there is sincerity. Sincerity will be established only if the Prime Minister takes some tangible action."

Holding that the government-opposition engagement cannot be restricted to the passage of just one bill, Sharma said, "Sincerity will be established if he sustains a constructive dialogue with the opposition on all issues, not just GST".

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