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GST Bill in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday likely; I am keeping fingers crossed, says Arun Jaitley

GST Bill in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday likely; I am keeping fingers crossed, says Arun Jaitley

Armed with in-principle support from most of the political parties, the government has listed the Goods and Services Tax Bill for introduction in the Rajya Sabha next Tuesday, according to media reports. Junior Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told the Upper House earlier that the Bill will be taken up next week.

The government is gearing up for the five-and-half hour discussion in the Rajya Sabha. As part of this, prime ministerNarendra Modi held a meeting finance minister Arun Jaitley, home minister Rajnath Singh and BJP chief Amit Shah ith at his residence, a report in The Indian Express said on Saturday.

However, with the Congress still playing its cards close to its chest, the government is keeping its fingers crossed.

report in The Hindustan Times on Saturday said the Congress is yet to take a final decision on the Bill.

"I would advise the media to wait till the negotiations and discussions are concluded," Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala has been quoted as saying in the report. Surjewala's words are an indication that the Rajya Sabha will see a heated discussion when it comes up for discussion.

In the amended Bill approved by the Cabinet, it is to be noted that only one of the three Congress demands has been met. The Congress demands were removal of the 1 percent additional state levy that seeks to compensate the revenue for manufacturing states such as Tamil Nadu and Gujarat, including the GST rate in the Constitutional amendment and setting up a dispute resolution mechanism headed by a high court judge.

Of this, the only one fully accepted is the first one. The other two have been met only partially.

In this context, it is no surprise that the government is keeping its fingers crossed. According to a report in the Business Standard, when asked about the prospects for the passage of the Bill, Jaitley said: I am keeping my fingers crossed.

On 27 July, the Cabinet had cleared changes in the legislation, including removal of the 1 percent manufacturing tax and providing guarantee to compensate states for any revenue loss in the first five years of rollout of the ambitious indirect tax regime.

The bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in May 2015 and vetted by the Rajya Sabha Select Committee.

However, the measure got stuck in the Upper House where the government does not have majority of its own, as the main opposition Congress sought certain changes in it.

The government has been making all efforts to hammer out a consensus on the bill by reaching out to opposition parties. The Congress has described the exercise as "constructive and positive".

The GST legislation, which intends to convert 29 states into a single market through a new indirect tax regime, was earlier planned to be introduced from 1 April this year, but the deadline was missed as the legislation to roll it out remained in limbo in the Opposition-dominated Rajya Sabha.

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