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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley (File Photo: PTI)[/caption]
With no signs of support coming from main opposition Congress, Government on Wednesday dropped plans for calling a special session of Parliament for passage of GST bill and decided to prorogue both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
"Keeping the political reality in mind, at the meeting of Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs it was decided that we will recommend to the President to prorogue the Monsoon
session," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told reporters after a meeting of the Union Cabinet and CCPA.
The decision came after Congress Tuesday virtually red-flagged government's attempts to call a special session for passage of GST bill, making it clear that it would not budge on its three key demands for amending NDA's legislation.
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Calling for political statesmanship on the part of various parties on a measure like GST, Jaitley attacked the Congress saying its attitude was as if it was trying to punish the
people of the country for voting them out in the 2014 general elections.
Jaitley said the government has tried to reach out to opposition and met a number of Congress leaders but the opposition party remained adamant with its "obstructionist"
attitude while all other opposition parties are in favour of passing the crucial tax reform legislation.
"We had been talking to Congress leaders and we were hopeful that they will discuss the issue internally and bring about a change in their obstructionist attitude. It is, however, clear now that they will continue with the same attitude.
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"Congress party's anger seems to be both with the government and the people of India. Their attitude is almost guided by a revenge against the people who have reduced them to 44 (in the Lok Sabha)," Jaitley said.
On being asked whether they have talked to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her deputy Rahul Gandhi, the Minister took a dig at the Congress top brass saying, "We discussed it with
their leaders in Parliament and some of their leaders in Parliament are accessible."
The Monsoon Session that started on July 21 and ended on August 13 was a near washout, with an unrelenting Congress stalling a number of legislations including the GST bill.
Keen to ensure its passage, government had kept open its option of reconvening the session with the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs deciding not to recommend immediate
prorogation of the Houses after they were adjourned sine die on August 13.
The idea behind this was that the government wanted to convene a short extended Monsoon session to pass the GST bill. Congress, however, has said that calling a special session
will serve no purpose unless its demands on GST are met.
Jaitley said the numbers as well as logic are against Congress on GST and hence the opposition party has only one option of vetoeing it by creating disturbance in Rajya Sabha
and force its adjournment.
Asked if government was ready to accept any of the Congress demands, Jaitley said the opposition party was now making such demands that were not even part of UPA GST bill.
"This wisdom has dawned on Congress party only after they have lost power," he said.
Congress Working Committee (CWC) has made it clear that the party would not budge on atleast three of its amendments on GST, including a tax ceiling of 18 per cent and removal of
one per cent tax imposed over and above GST to compensate the manufacturing states, besides setting up a regulatory mechanism.
On the Congress demand for putting an 18 per cent ceiling on tax, Jaitley said there is no provision in the Constitution under which this limit can be a provision. He also wondered if
soaps and tobacco or medicines and alcohol could be taxed in the same manner, going by the Congress suggestion.
To a question on whether the decision for not calling an extended Monsoon session will delay the proposed roll out of GST from April next, Jaitley merely said, "Your guess is as good as mine."
The Finance Minister, however, made it clear that this did not mean that government has given up on GST and insisted that it will keep trying as all other parties are keen that the
legislation is passed.
"We have not said we are not going with the GST. We will continue to try. The Congress party's best bet today is disturbance. Their next best bet is to delay. And don't forget
the numbers in Rajya Sabha change very radically and on April 4 they will change significantly," he said.
"In Lok Sabha, except Congress all political parties had voted in favour of the bill. Congress walked out, they (other parties) had not walked out. If situation changes then cabinet will again reconsider the matter," he said.
Jaitley said, "This is time for political parties to display some statesmanship particularly when India is trying to emerge as a global power with high growth in the midst of global slowdown."
As per the procedure, after approval by the Rajya Sabha the constitution amendment bill on GST will have to be approved by 50 per cent of the state legislatures.
Jaitley said once the bill is approved by the Rajya Sabha, other steps would not take much time as the government is ready with supporting legislations, of which one has to be passed by the Centre and two by states.
"Our draft legislations are almost ready. We will require meeting of empowered committee to clear them and they can be passed. We need the IT backbone, and those handling the IT
infrastructure inform us they are in position to put it in place by April 1, 2016 comfortably...we are keeping ourself in readiness," Jaitley said.