With GST in mind, Modi government planning special Parliament session in September

Economic Times, August 18, 2015

Government is mulling over calling a special session of Parliament sometime in the second week of September to pass the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Second) Amendment Bill, 2015- or the Goods and Services Tax Bill- and is in talks with all political parties to get the requisite 2/3 majority in Rajya Sabha where the NDA is in a minority.

The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, headed by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, had decided against proroguing the monsoon session of Parliament to keep the option open of holding a special session at short notice to pass the crucial Bill.

“The session is likely to be called after the first week of September and will be a two and a half day or three day affair. The GST constitutional amendment Bill will be passed by the Rajya Sabha incorporating some of the amendments suggested by the Opposition and then cleared by the Lok Sabha again in its new form,” a senior minister told ET.

Meanwhile, government is in the process of reaching out to political parties to win their support for the Bill. Once the government is sure of the 2/3 majority of those present and voting, the CCPA would be convened to fix the dates, sources said. BJP leaders did not rule out the possibility of Prime Minister Narendra Modi having solicited AIADMK support for the Bill when he met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa last week.

AIADMK has 11 members and has expressed its dissent against theGST Bill as it feels Tamil Nadu will suffer due to the uniform tax system as it is a manufacturing state. The Centre has promised to address its concern.

Congress- which had initiated the GST Bill in 2006- is strongly opposed to it in the present form and is insisting on three key amendments, including capping the tax at 18% and removing the one percent additional tax. Finance Minister has ruled out incorporating these changes and said these are an “afterthought” of the main opposition aimed only at stalling the Bill. With 68 members, Congress would be the biggest stumbling block in passage of the Bill.

It is not clear if JD (U)- having 12 members in the Upper House- will support the Bill.

The other political parties are amenable to supporting the GST Bill. Government is keen on meeting the April 1, 2016 deadline for the implementation of the landmark tax system that would arguably increase the country’s GDP by one to 1.5%. After both Houses of Parliament clear the constitutional amendment, half of the states will have to pass it.

With Rajya Sabha at present having a total strength of 244, 163 members will constitute a 2/3 majority if all are present and voting. Government would have to bank on some parties staging a walkout to get the numbers. Union ministers have been tasked with mustering the numbers before the special session is convened, sources said.

The Bill has already gone through a Select Committee of the Rajya Sabha but could not be passed as the Opposition forced a virtual washout of the session on the Lalit Modi and Vyapam controversies.

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