Budget Session 2017: Last chance for Parliament to pass GST laws; PM Modi hopes for 'breakthrough'

S V Krishnamachari
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Logistics stocks were trading with minor gains on the stock exchanges on Thursday even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed confidence that the second half of the Budget Session would pass the crucial GST laws. The final draft of the Central GST and Integrated GST were cleared by the GST Council last Saturday. 

The Session will end on April 12 and offers the last chance to pave the way for next steps in implementing the Goods and Services Tax (GST) laws — the fixing of tax rates for various goods and services — so as to roll out the new law from July 1, 2017. Goods and services will be slotted under four tax slabs: 5 per cent, 12 per cent, 18 per cent and 28 per cent.

"We are hopeful of a breakthrough in the GST. One of the reasons for our optimism is that all the states have cooperated in a positive manner. All the political parties have also been extremely positive and cooperative in their response. The efforts are on to enlist the co-operation of all to ensure that GST is in place by this session," Modi said in a televised address ahead of the commencement of the Session.

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A consensus could elude if the Parliamentary proceedings are disrupted after the Assembly election results or if the Opposition resorts to filibuster, putting the passage of the laws in jeopardy.

The conciliatory tone comes after weeks of aggressive campaigning for Assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and other states by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition parties (Samajwadi Party, Congress and Bahujan Samaj Party).

Besides the GST laws, the Parliament will also debate, discuss and pass the Finance Bill 2017 containing the Budget proposals.

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The results of the elections to the five states will be declared on Saturday (March 11) while the exit poll outcome will start coming in from Thursday evening.

A lot hinges on the results of the elections, especially in Uttar Pradesh, as analysts are seeing it as a litmus test for Modi's note ban decision of November 8. While a win for the BJP will boost its confidence to continue with economic reforms, a loss would be seen as a setback, especially by stock markets.

The BSE Sensex was down 15 points to 28,887 at around 12.07 pm while the NSE Nifty was trading nine points lower at 8,915.

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Logistics stocks were trading with minor gains; GATI was up 1.30 percent at Rs 129, Snowman Logistics was up 1.27 percent at Rs 60, Allcargo Logistics was up 1.52 percent at Rs 166.

The rupee opened lower at 66.81 to the US dollar on Thursday after closing at 66.71 the previous day.

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