After 4 weeks of disruption, can GST be passed in 4 days?

DNA, August 14, 2015

Hours after a turbulent monsoon session came to an end, the government gave indications that it was keeping a window open for passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill soon to roll out the reform measure from April, 2016.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary affairs has decided against recommending immediate prorogation of both Houses, which have been adjourned sine die, so that the government would have the option of reconvening a short session for passage of GST.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government was determined to have the GST implemented by April next year. While he refused to disclose the strategy for passage of GST in Parliament given the Congress stand, Jaitley exuded confidence that the numbers were loaded against the Congress on the Constitution amendment, which required two-third majority, in Rajya Sabha.

The government is banking on the ‘isolation’ of Congress on GST to get the bill passed in Rajya Sabha, where Opposition outnumbers the treasury benches. While it was not clear how the ruling side would avert a repeat of the monsoon session, which was a washout over the Congress demand for resignations of BJP leaders, the message that government had not given up on keeping to the GST timeline, would be a boost to investor confidence.

“I am an eternal optimist….. I hope the hostile reaction of public opinion will infuse some sense in the Congress. Secondly, the numbers in the Rajya Sabha keep changing,” Jaitley said.

He said if the bill got pushed to the Winter Session, it would be ‘extremely difficult’ for GST to keep to the April timeline. Asked if the government would convene a special session, he said a decision would have to be taken on it.

Under Article 85 (2) of the Constitution, the President is vested with power to prorogue both houses of Parliament, but if the Houses are not prorogued, it is considered an ongoing session and can be reconvened.

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