Parliamentary Affairs Minister of India Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday met Congress President Sonia Gandhi and sought cooperation for the early passage of the crucial GST bill and the Real Estate bill even as he said the government was ready for an early Budget session if the parties agree.
Naidu drove down to the residence of Gandhi at 10, Janpath here early on Thursday and held discussions with her for about 20 minutes during which the Congress President is learnt to have asked him about the government’s view on the three main suggestions given by the Congress on Goods and Services Tax (GST).
Sources said Naidu told Gandhi that issues raised by the Congress in respect of GST bill were considered by the government and the its’s position was communicated to Congress leaders earlier.
Regarding the Real Estate bill, Naidu told Gandhi that as decided by Congress and other parties, the Bill was referred to a select committee of Rajya Sabha and the government had accepted almost all recommendations of the committee.
Naidu told the Congress President that if required, the government will like to advance the Budget session of Parliament for early passage of these bills if political parties agree to it.
The Congress President is learnt to have told Naidu that she will get back to him after consultations with her party leaders.
The Constitution Amendment bill to roll out GST is stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) does not have a majority of its own. The bill is being opposed by Congress although many other opposition parties are on board.
Venkaiah later told reporters that he met Gandhi in his capacity as the Parliamentary Affairs Minister and that he asked the Congress President to take a final stand on the two pending bills.
He said the government has already spoken to Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma in this regard.
“I reminded her (about Congress taking a decision on the issue after meeting the Prime Minister) and asked her to take a quick decision on GST and Real Estate bill,” he said.
“I indicated to her and did not make a commitment that if the party takes a positive stand, we can convene the Parliament session early,” Naidu said.
Congress is seeking three changes in the bill, including a constitutional cap on the GST rate, to support it.
The other two changes sought by Congress in the GST bill are removal of one per cent additional tax on inter-state transfer of goods and a Supreme Court judge headed dispute resolution panel.
GST, which seeks to simplify and harmonise the indirect tax regime across the country with a single uniform rate, has been stuck for many years in a political gridlock.
While the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime failed to get it passed in Parliament due to opposition from the BJP and some other parties, Congress has now refused to support the bill proposed by the NDA government in its present form.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had recently said that the rolling out of the ambitious GST regime is “certainly” doable this year and added that he was in “continuous touch” with the Congress in a bid to persuade them to cooperate.
Jaitley said the passage of GST remains one of his key priority areas for the New Year, along with rationalising the direct taxes and further easing of process for doing business.