‘Confrontational speech not the best way to reach out to opposition on GST’, says former FM P Chidambaram

Chennai: A day after Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley offered to discuss with Congress changes in the GST bill, former union minister on Wednesday said that the confrontational speech is not the best way to reach out to opposition.

P Chidambaram

Ahead of the winter session, taking to micro blogging site, senior Congress leader and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram said, “FM’s confrontational speech at ASSOCHAM not the best way to reach out to opposition on GST”

Jaitley, who needs Parliament approval for the Goods & Services Tax (GST) Bill in the winter session beginning Thursday to rollout the new indirect tax regime from planned April 1, had said he is willing to discuss with Congress as some of its suggestions were not in the larger interest of the GST structure.

“We are reaching out to them, we are willing to discuss with them because some of these suggestions may not necessarily be in the larger interest of the GST structure,” he said at an Assocham event.

Jaitley said those stalling reforms should realise that space for obsolete thinking is now shrinking and those who support reforms is much bigger than those who obstruct.

“The wisdom which dawned on my friends in the Congress party had not dawned on them when Pranab Mukherjee (as Finance Minister) introduced the GST (in 2011).

“It did not dawn on them when (the then Finance Minister) P Chidambaram accepted the Standing Committee recommendations but to come out with the preposterous suggestion that tariff must be mentioned in the Constitution document so that in a given exigency if tariff has to be altered you need a two-third majority in both houses of Parliament and has to go to each of the states,” he said.

Jaitley said it would be “extremely unfair” to the country “if we try to impose in the name of political compromise, a GST with a defective architecture”.

The Congress had stalled passage of the GST Bill in the last session of Parliament over its demand that a revenue-neutral rate not higher than 18 per cent be mentioned in the Constitution Amendment bill.

GST, which will subsume more than a dozen state levies to create a single market, is to be implemented from April 1, 2016. But a Constitution Amendment Bill could not go through the Rajya Sabha in the last session of Parliament due to opposition from the Congress.

The April 1 deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the Bill in the session from November 26 to December 23.

The Congress is opposed to states being given powers to levy additional 1% tax on supply of goods over and above GST rate. It also wanted tobacco and petroleum products included within the GST ambit.

(with inputs from PTI)