Rahul Gandhi Hunts For Support For Today's Vote On GST Tax Reform Bills

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Rahul Gandhi Hunts For Support For Today's Vote On GST Tax Reform Bills

Rahul Gandhi sought Left support for an amendment that Congress' Jairam Ramesh will seek today


New Delhi:  Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi met CPM leader Sitaram Yechury for 45 minutes on Wednesday evening, over a cup of coffee, the latter said. Mr Gandhi has sought the Left's support for an amendment that the Congress' Jairam Ramesh will seek on Thursday when four GST or Goods and Services Tax bills are voted on in the Rajya Sabha.  

The government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and the Congress can, with the help of other opposition parties, get the amendment passed by the House. Because they are Money Bills, the changes approved by the Rajya Sabha will not be binding on the Lok Sabha or Lower House to which the bills will then return. The Lok Sabha can choose to accept or reject the changes.

But the Rajya Sabha approving amendments will be an embarrassment for the government like the one it suffered last week, when the Upper House returned the Finance Bill with amendments for the first time ever. The Lok Sabha quickly took the amendments down.

Opposition parties have accused the government of undermining the Rajya Sabha by moving legislation as Money Bills.

Government sources said they hoped the Congress' amendment will not be approved by the Rajya Sabha. But even if they are, the sources said, they will be "rejected within 24 hours in the Lok Sabha." The four bills have already been cleared by the Lok Sabha, where the government has a big majority, last week.      

Mr Ramesh wants the bills to mandate parliamentary approval of the recommendations of the powerful GST council, which is made up of state finance ministers and is headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. The Congress leader has argued that the government cannot have sole discretion to issue an executive notification to accept recommendations of the council.

A senior minister described this as a move to sabotage GST, saying it was impractical to have parliament and every state assembly pass GST council recommendations.

The government wants parliament's approval in the Budget session to be able to meet a July deadline to launch GST, a unified tax that will subsume all indirect taxes.   


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