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BJP warms up to Congress for GST Bill

New Delhi,MEHBOOB JEELANI: The winter session of Parliament is round the corner and the Congress is warming up to counter the ruling BJP on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday. Details of the meeting are unclear. It is speculated that Mr. Jaitley informally reached out to the two Congress leaders to clear the way for the GST Bill.

Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala, however, brushed aside reports that anything political was discussed. He told The Hindu that the Finance Minister met the two leaders to invite them to his daughter’s wedding. “It was a courtesy call,” he said. “Conversation on the GST will not take place like this. Ms. Sonia Gandhi is clear that the discussion will have to take place in the open.”

Speaking to The Hindu, senior Congress leader Shakeel Ahmed said the party would support the bill only if it was “people friendly” and introduced in the form conceived by the previous Congress-led regime. “If the BJP government accepts our key demands, we will certainly support the bill.”

Sticking points
From the Congress standpoint, the problematic provisions in the bill, as brought in by the BJP government, are the 1% interstate cess, high tax cap and inadequate accountability measures. Explaining the rationale behind opposing the 1% interstate cess, Mr. Shakeel said that if one product had to pass through ten different States it would be unfair to stick 10% tax on it.

Calling the BJP-initiated GST bill “a killer bill,” Mr. Surjewala said the government was yet to shun the “no talk policy” with the Opposition and so it was hard to predict whether the bill would make it through the Rajya Sabha.

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