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End of deadlock? Govt ready to accept Congress demand on GST bill

Last updated on: January 07, 2016 14:54 IST

A labourer prepares to unload sacks of potatoes from a truck at a wholesale vegetable and fruit market in New Delhi. The Indian government has agreed to accept the conditions laid down by the opposition Congress party to back a landmark tax reform, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters on Thursday, a Reuters report said.

Naidu also said the government was willing to advance the upcoming Parliament session to back the proposed Goods and Services Tax Bill if the Congress party was ready to support the measure.

Adds PTI: Naidu on Thursday met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and sought cooperation for the early passage of the crucial Goods and Services Tax Bill and the Real Estate bill even as he said the government was ready for an early Budget session if the parties agree.

Naidu drove down to the residence of Gandhi at 10, Janpath in New Delhi early on Thursday and held discussions with her for about 20 minutes during which the Congress President is learnt to have asked him about the government's view on the three main suggestions given by the Congress on GST.

Sources said Naidu told Gandhi that issues raised by the Congress in respect of GST bill were considered by the government and the government's position was communicated to Congress leaders earlier.

Regarding the Real Estate bill, Naidu told Gandhi that as decided by Congress and other parties, the Bill was referred to a select committee of Rajya Sabha and the government had accepted almost all recommendations of the committee.

Naidu told the Congress President that if required, the government will like to advance the Budget session of Parliament for early passage of these bills if political parties agree to it.

The Congress President is learnt to have told Naidu that she will get back to him after consultations with her party leaders.

The Constitution Amendment bill to roll out GST is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling National Democratic Alliance does not have a majority of its own.

The bill is being opposed by Congress although many other opposition parties are on board.

Congress is seeking three changes in the bill, including a constitutional cap on the GST rate, to support it.

The other two changes sought by Congress in the GST bill are removal of one per cent additional tax on inter-state transfer of goods and a Supreme Court judge headed dispute resolution panel. GST, which seeks to simplify and harmonise the indirect tax regime across the country with a single uniform rate, has been stuck for many years in a political gridlock.

While the previous United Progressive Alliance regime failed to get it passed in Parliament because of opposition from the Bharatiya Janata Party and and a few others, Congress has now refused to support the bill proposed by the NDA government in its present form.

Image: A labourer prepares to unload sacks of potatoes from a truck at a wholesale vegetable and fruit market in New Delhi. Photograph: Anindito Mukherjee/Reuters