GST bill listed in RS agenda though no final nod from Congress

New Delhi: The government has decided to go ahead on the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill which has been listed on the Rajya Sabha's agenda next week, despite the Congress saying it has not given any "final assurance" as it still has some apprehensions. "Discussion on the matter is going on with different political parties to build a consensus. The government is hopeful of passage of the Bill," Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters outside Parliament on Friday. "Most of the parties are on board," he said. Asked about the passage of the bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said: "We have our fingers crossed". A date for taking up the bill has, however, not been announced yet. Dubbing the GST as an "instrument of growth", the Congress, however, said on Friday that it must be passed but it must be practically implementable. "There is no final assurance yet given to government either by Congress or other Opposition parties," Congress spokesman Randeep Singh Surjewala told a press conference. "GST is not a political instrument but an instrument of growth which was blocked by then Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and other BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj," he added. The Congress leader said that "issues" are still being deliberated and the party is willing to negotiate. "GST shouldn't be only consensus-based but it should also reflect the will of the nation," he said. The party, however, welcomed the Union cabinet's decision to approve key changes in the proposed legislation, including dropping the proposed one per cent additional tax on inter-state sale. The Congress demands on the bill include capping GST rate at 18 percent and mentioning this in the Constitution Amendment Bill. It also wants an independent dispute resolution mechanism. "The government has acceded to demands made by Congress and it hopes to persuade the government to agree on other issues," Surjewala said. "GST Bill must be passed but it must be a practically implementable GST which you and me and 125 crore people will not regret of having passed including the members of parliament," he said. Surjewala added that in democracy, deliberation is the only way forward to settle issues but it must be meaningful. "Last time we had given to the government a list of 8-9 suggestions after due deliberations and we said that we are ready to sit down and discuss. Government, for some reason, was not willing to work with Opposition which led to this delay," he said. A day earlier, Jaitley and Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian held several rounds of talks with leaders of Congress and other parties, including the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal-United and the Communist Party of India-Marxist. Congress sources said party Vice President Rahul Gandhi also expects a positive outcome from these consultations, which have entered a "decisive and positive phase".