GST likely in the monsoon session

With the BJP winning the state elections in Assam and the regional parties in states changing their stance, the likelihood of GST getting passed in the monsoon session is increasing. As we are already aware that the GST is through in the Lok Sabha and because of the Congress opposition it was stuck in the Rajya Sabha. The equation has changed over the past few weeks with the BJP led NDA numbers increasing in the Rajya Sabha.

The Rajya Sabha has 245 members and a two-thirds majority is required to ratify the GST bill. After the recent elections in five states, NDA has now 74 MPs which are three more than the UPA’s 71. For the first time, Congress led UPA lags behind the BJP led NDA in the house. The BJP is actively seeking the support of the regional parties which includes the Trinamool Congress, JD(U), BSP, SP, RJD, TRS and DMK for the GST. Their vote in favour of the GST bill assumes significance besides the 12 nominated members who can add to the number. The arithmetic is being worked out by BJP for quite some time and it shows that Congress is getting isolated.

In a recently concluded empowered committee meeting where the finance ministers of 22 states had gathered, the support for the 122nd constitutional amendment bill was evident. All the states including the ones ruled by the Congress gave their detailed views on GST with Tamil Nadu pitching in with some reservations. Amit Mitra, the Trinamool Congress finance minister from West Bengal seconded the finance minister of India, Arun Jaitley’s remark that all states were on board over the long pending contentious issue. The empowered committee has taken a note of the reservations in the right spirit. With the TN CM Jayalalithaa meeting the PM soon, it is quite likely that she may take up the state related issues to draw positive concurrence in exchange for the GST support.

With the latest election results, the Congress rule is now restricted to just 6 out of the 29 states. After the bill is passed in the Parliament it needs to be ratified by 50% or 15 states. This can be done by the NDA ruled states alone without any support from the UPA. The Congress needs to rethink its strategy as the elections in UP, Uttrakhand, Punjab, Goa, and Manipur looms large in front of it. It cannot invite further backlash by opposing the GST bill, which is now being seen as a landmark in the development of the country.

The Congress cannot disown the bill any longer. It can find the loopholes in the bill, criticise it, and point to the non-inclusion of the 18% cap on the GST rate but ultimately support the bill in the Rajya Sabha. The other option for them is to stage a walk out after pointing the shortcomings in the bill and expect the Modi government to reach out to them. The way the things are going, it is better for the Congress to agree to the bill which is their own baby and garner some support from the masses. The recent developments have given a lot of hope to the people of the country to see that GST is through in the monsoon session.

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