GST clears Rajya Sabha deck as former PM Manmohan Singh plays statesman role: 10 points

Mohammed Uzair Shaikh
"This is a historic step. The Bill may prove to be a game changer, but there would be difficulties. We all need a constructive spirit," said Manmohan Singh.

New Delhi, April 6: The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is all set to be rolled out on July 1 as Centre has succeeded in clearing the Rajya Sabha hurdle. The four key Bills related to GST were passed by the Upper House after nearly eight hours of debate. Although the Opposition was firm to move amendments, it was former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who played the statesman role and ensured the consensus of House remains intact.

The four legislations cleared by Rajya Sabha today were: Central Goods and Services Tax Bill (CGST), the Integrated Goods and Services Tax Bill (IGST) the Goods and Services Tax (Compensation to States) Bill and the Union Territory Goods and Services Tax Bill (UTGST).

The point of contention till the passage remained the power allotted to the GST Council through which it could surpass the Parliament while altering the tax rates. 10 points:

  • Both Congress and Left decided to pull back their respective amendments to the legislations as Centre has passed them as Money Bills. According to reports, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had suggested CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechury to refrain from moving the amendments as the process would be a futile exercise.
  • However, Congress’ Jairam Ramesh and Vivek Tankha were firm to table their respective amendments in the Upper House today. They were compelled to retract as Dr Manmohan Singh urged the Opposition to not to bring their amendments in order to maintain the broad consensus which has been reached nearly 11 years after GST was first pitched by the erstwhile UPA regime.
  • “I urge not to push amendments in GST Bill for the sake of consensus,” Manmohan appealed the lawmakers.
  • Referring to Manmohan’s plea, Jairam Ramesh opined that the ‘current Prime Minister should take cue from his predecessor. “In spite of the former PM being at the receiving end of the jibes of his successor including rain coat and what not, I think in view of the statesman-like approach that the former PM Manmohan Singh has advised me not to move this amendment,” Jairam Ramesh said.
  • Arun Jaitley, the Leader of Rajya Sabha, acknowledged the support shown by Opposition members. No hesitation in conceding that it is not a Bill for which one person or one govt should take credit. It is a collective property in which states, political parties, central government and successive governments – all contributed,” Jaitley said while speaking in the Rajya Sabha.
  • Despite all other members of Opposition retracting their amendments, TMC’s Derek O’Brien was firm to challenge the powers granted to GST Council through the legislation.
  • Jaitley urged O’Brien to pull back his amendment, asserting that it would send the wrong precedent, allowing state assembled to alo demand similar rights. However, the TMC MP countered, saying that the Parliament could not be undermined while changing tax rates which could adversely impact the common man.
  • O’Brien’s amendment was rejected by the House, with only 9 voting in its favour, whereas, 113 lawmakers rejecting it.
  • Following the passage of the Bill, Manmohan said, “This is a historic step. The Bill may prove to be a game changer, but there would be difficulties. We all need a constructive spirit.” On being asked about BJP’s opposition to the Bill when he was in power, Manmohan replied, “There will be pitfalls. Let bygones be bygones.”