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GST debate to be a Jaitley vs Chidambaram face-off. Don't miss it!

Akash Bisht | Updated on: 2 August 2016, 23:15 IST

The wait is finally over. After a year of confrontation, political parties will finally come together to discuss the contentious Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill which will get Rajya Sabha's nod on Wednesday.

However, the Upper House will see heated exchanges between the BJP led central government and the Congress on who takes credit for the implementation of the biggest tax reform since Independence.

Both the parties are planning to put forth their best speakers to not let one of them claim victory over the passage of the Bill.

In anticipation of Wednesday's proceedings, the principal opposition has issued a whip to all its MPs to be present during the discussion. On Tuesday, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi chaired a meeting with party MPs to deliberate on the strategy needed to corner the BJP.

Along with the Gandhi scion, leader of the Congress party in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma and former finance minister P Chidambaram, among others, discussed key points of the legislation.

Also read - Govt panel accepts most Congress demands. Will the GST bill pass now?

Speaking to Catch, Kharge said, "We are still discussing the nuances of the Bill after which it will be decided what issues the party need to raise in the Upper House." Meanwhile, Chidambaram briefed the MPs on the Bill and how the party is planning to take the discussion forward on Wednesday.

The battle in the House

Congress is likely to field Chidambaram as its main speaker who, according to reports, would take credit for GST and attack the government on how it vehemently opposed the passage of this key legislation when UPA-II was in power. It will also argue how the party aggressively negotiated with the government on low GST rate and the compensatory mechanism for the states for a period of five years.

"Everyone knows that it was the Congress that first introduced the Bill. If it wasn't for the passiveness of this government, this deadlock would have been solved long back. Earlier, they were too stubborn to reach out to the opposition and once they did, the results are for all to see," said Kharge.

Similarly, the BJP too has had a long discussion with its party MPs and the onus of explaining the finer details of the Bill was on Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who is likely to lead the BJP's arguments on Wednesday.

Jaitley briefed party legislators about the key changes in the Bill and the need to aggressively push the government's notion of how this will push country's economic growth. According to sources, the government will counter an aggressive Congress in taking credit for the implementation of the Bill.

BJP leaders will raise points like its was this government that walked the extra mile in getting consensus from all states and Jaitley is likely to play a key role in ensuring opposition doesn't walk away the credit for this business friendly reform.

"The anticipated impact of this on the efficiency of Indian business is a compelling argument, even if nothing else strikes us. Further, it overturns the existing principles of taxation-shifting it to the point of consumption as opposed to imposing it at the manufacturing stage. And it looks like it will be on consensus, which is the only way it should happen, given the scale of the reform," Anil Padmanabhan wrote in The Mint.

Lok Sabha passed GST in 2015. But it couldn't clear Rajya Sabha due to lack of consensus

Earlier in the day, the government circulated all the amendments proposed in the Constitution Amendment Bill which will lead to implementation of uniform tax structure across the country. Responding to the question raised by Samajwadi Party MP Naresh Agarwal, who complained of not receiving the copy of the amended Bill, Jaitley said that it had been submitted to the Secretariat of the House and was subsequently shared with all members.

The GST Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in May 2015, but absence of political consensus in the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP is in a minority, has stalled the reform that will usher in a uniform tax regime across India by replacing a slew of taxes.

With Congress on board, the Narendra Modi government would be left to face opposition from only the AIADMK and the BSP, which are not in a position to stall the Bill.

In the 243-member Rajya Sabha, 163 votes are needed to pass a constitutional amendment. The NDA has 71 votes and if the Congress lends its support, the ruling dispensation should have the required numbers.

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First published: 2 August 2016, 23:15 IST