‘Sad Day for Democracy’, Says Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien
Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien says “It’s a sad day for democracy” as he adjourned the House this morning amid loud protests by Congress lawmakers. The House must function today for the government to push the country’s biggest tax reform, the Goods and Services Tax or GST.
- Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who yesterday moved the GST Bill which gives effect to the reform, has said the government will attempt to get the bill passed with the help of other parties today through “all correct measures politically and constitutionally.”
- With unrelenting disruptions, the Congress continues to block efforts at debating the bill, which creates a national sales tax to replace a matrix of levies in the 29 states.
- It wants the resignation of three top BJP leaders including Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj for helping tainted cricket mogul Lalit Modi get papers to travel out of UK.
- In the Lok Sabha today, Ms Swaraj said she is ready for a debate on the controversy that has led to a paralysis of Parliament. The Congress has demanded that all other business of the House be put aside and Prime Minister Narendra Modi be present during the debate.
- The government must have the GST Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha in the monsoon session, which ends tomorrow, to meet a 2016 deadline for implementing it. After it is sanctioned by Parliament, half of India’s states need to endorse the reform.
- The bill seeks to amend the Constitution and two-thirds of the house, or 164 members, must approve it. The government and its allies are in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and will need the support of opposition parties to pass the bill.
- The government hopes to demonstrate that the Congress is politically isolated on GST. It has accused the Congress of creating obstacles in the path of the country’s economic growth.
- The Congress which has the most MPs, 68, in the 245-member Rajya Sabha, says it wants a more “simple and comprehensive” bill.
- The government hopes for support from regional parties. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal (United), both with 12 Rajya Sabha lawmakers, have confirmed they will back the bill.
- The government is also counting on support from the AIADMK (11 MPs) and Samajwadi Party (15 MPs). The Left has been opposed to it all along and gave a dissent note to the parliamentary committee that reviewed the bill, but says it is still undecided.