Thursday, 28 July 2016

Outcome of negotiations on GST Bill ‘positive’, hints Congress

The Congress has paved the way for the government to take up the GST Bill in the Rajya Sabha early next week with party president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi indicating to the government that the outcome of negotiations on the legislation has been ‘positive’. This was told by the Congress leadership during an informal interaction with the media in Parliament’s Central Hall yesterday.The change in Congress
party’s stand on the matter come a couple of days after a meeting of the Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers with Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Yesterday, Jaitley and Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanyam held several rounds of talks with leaders of Congress and other parties including the Samajwadi Party, JD(U) and CPI(M). Former finance minister P Chidambaram, Anand Sharma and Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha participated in the discussions with Jaitley. There were two rounds with the Congress leaders.

"Serious effort is being made to bring a consensus on the GST Bill," Sharma said.

He, however, refused to disclose details on whether the Congress was insisting on its standing about putting a cap on the levy in the Constitution Bill.

Congress sources said party Rahul Gandhi also expects a positive outcome from these consultations. They said the discussions have entered a "decisive and positive phase".

"Talks are on with various parties on GST and so far things are moving forward as expected," a senior government functionary said adding the effort is on to present it in the Rajya Sabha next week.

Sources say Jaitley told the opposition leaders that government wants to bring consensus on the GST and was ready for talks with any leader even during the weekend to hear out and address their concerns on the issue.

A top Congress leader, however, said they were awaiting the draft of the legislation after "extensive talks" with the government and hoped for a "positive outcome".

At the meeting of Business Advisory Committee (BAC) of Upper House in the evening, the GST Bill was not discussed as it has already earmarked five hours for the bill last week.

Jaitley also met SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav and CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and held talks with other leaders also. Sources add that the government is also in touch with AIADMK chief J Jayalalithaa on the key bill.

The government is working to address the concerns raised by opposition parties, including Congress, on the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, known as the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill. The Bill seeks to introduce a system for uniform taxation across the country and has been pending for a long time.

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