Wednesday June 20, 2018
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GST Bill: Time for Congress to question its means and ends

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By Gaurav Sharma

Photo credit: youtube.com
Photo credit: youtube.com

The current ruckus created in the Parliament over the introduction of the Goods and Service Tax Bill(GST), has resulted in a stalemate between the NDA government and opposition parties threatening a whitewash monsoon session this year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley blamed the impasse on the “obstinacy of two Congress leaders”, alluding to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice-president Rahul Gandhi.

Jaitley alleged that the Congress’ demands for resignations of Sushma Swaraj, and two other ministers, was a pretext for stalling the GST bill. However, the Congress refused to backtrack from its stance and continued to shout its motto, “no resignation, no House”.

Meanwhile, JD(U) chief Sharad Yadav and other MP’s from the Samajwadi Party(SP) attacked Jaitley for his inability to push through the bill.

Why has the bill created such a mindless, bitter standoff so as to stall the functioning of Parliament, brazenly splurging precious taxpayer money in a sea of inactivity? Is it mere coincidence that the passage of the bill in the Upper House gratuitously timed itself with serious charges being leveled against top politicos?

This requires an understanding of the Goods & Services Tax.

GST is a tax initiative which aims to bring all indirect taxes under a single tax structure, whereby all goods and services are charged under a national sales tax. It is the backbone of the indirect tax reforms that the Indian government has been aiming to bring forth since 2010, when the then finance minister P Chidambaram proposed it in his budget speech.

GST is part of a constitutional amendment bill for which means it has to be passed by both the Houses of the Parliament.

Under the proposed harmonised taxation system, only the Central government would be able to levy an integrated GST on the interstate transfer of goods and services and imports. Rates of tax, supply principles, special state provisions and levy period for additional tax would be determined (recommended) by a GST Council.

How will it help the economy?

Although the provisions of the bill are not strictly conforming to an ideal GST regime, the tax would bring a sea change in the way business is conducted in the country and the way economy revolves.

It will iron out the kinks in the current indirect tax structure, broaden the tax base (thereby filling the government coffers), increase compliance and prevent the gory practice of double taxation.

Economic distortions which further make life difficult for businesses running at a pan-India level, will be wiped clean, providing much-needed ease-of-doing-business for corporates. Manufacturing activity would start rising and tax compliance would become simpler.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley boisterously described the GST as the biggest tax reform in India and went to say that it would add a substantial 2 per cent to the growth rate of the country.

Issues pertaining GST

The GST has its fair share of  contentious issues. First of all, the provisions of the bill declare an additional tax of 1 per cent (for 2 years) on inter-state trade or commerce by the Centre, thereby precluding the visualized aim of taxing value addition and not trade.

Furthermore, the exclusion of alcohol and petroleum from the ambit of the GST Bill puts question marks on the resolve of the government to ushering forth a strong taxation regime.

Some states have voiced concerns over potential revenue losses in light of the change in tax infrastructure. Still, in the long run, one can expect prices to fall and delivery of goods and services to become more efficient, bringing much cheer to the inflation saddled shoulders of the consumer.

Indian products, both in domestic and international, can be expected to become more competitive due to the fall in price. A surge in exports would cut India’s current account deficit (CAD) significantly, which can have a cascading effect on the strength of the rupee.

It would not be too far-fetched to imagine a vast improvement in India’s standing in the global markets, if the GST is implemented swiftly, without any red-tapism.

Present Status

GST has not only caused a scuffle between politicians but has agitated the corporate groups. Most of the corporate honchos blame the Opposition for delaying the implementation of GST.

More than 61 per cent of the respondents of an ET poll felt that the delay would be a setback, a pushback to the economic recovery. Majority felt a complete economic recovery would be difficult to accomplish by April 2016, the deadline set for the passage of the bill.

If the opposition comprising of 68 Congress, 10 Left, 11 AIADMK MPs continue to battle tooth and nail against the bill, their credibility as pro-reform political parties will be questioned.

While the Rajya Sabha requires the sanction of at least two-thirds majority to pass the bill, the prospective opposition alliance would fail the bill by seven votes in the house of 245 members.

Considering the fact that barely 2 days remain for the end of the monsoon session, it is highly unlikely that the government would be able to introduce the bill. The opposition in its political zealousness has resorted to a desperate measure of log jamming the Parliament.

Protesting against a pro-market, pro-economy legislation, shows the degraded levels to which our politicians have stooped to, without giving a hoot to the slick democratic machinery of the country.

Our politicians swear by the Constitution, it is time they start abiding by it.

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Karnataka Polls: BJP On The Way to Win, Congress May Get Hard Defeat

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

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A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Congress may have to taste defeat in Karnataka, VOA

The BJP was on Tuesday set to return to power in its southern bastion Karnataka as its candidates crossed the half-way mark in vote count, stunning and ousting the ruling Congress and leaving the JD-S at the third spot.

Noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as Bharatiya Janata Party nominees were on the victory lap in 118 of the 222 constituencies which voted on Saturday.

This was a dramatic jump from the 40 seats the BJP won five years ago.

The Congress, desperate to retain power in the state amid shrinking appeal nationally, suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah trailing in both the constituencies he contested: Badami and Chamundeshwari.

The Congress leader was way behind G.T Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular in Chamundeshwari, Election Commission officials said. And after leading initially, Siddaramaiah fell behind B.R. Sriramulu of the BJP in Badami.

In contrast, the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was ahead of his Congress rival by more than 11,000 votes in Shikaripura.

Energy Minister and Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that the numbers indicated that his party was on the way out after five years in power.

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

The BJP was overjoyed. “We are in a jubilant mood because we have crossed the half-way mark. We are confident of winning,” spokesman S. Shantharam told IANS.

BJP activists and leaders celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and party President Amit Shah.

There were also celebrations outside the residence of Yeddyurappa, who has been Chief Minister earlier too.

Of the 2,654 candidates in the fray for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, at least 883 are crorepatis and 645 have criminal cases against them, said two watchdogs after analysing their affidavits filed with the Election Commission (EC).
Karnataka Polls counting suggests big win for BJP, wikimedia commons

The Janata Dal-Secular of former Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda, which has been expected to play the role of a kingmaker in the event of a hung Assembly, was leading in 40 seats — the same number it won five years ago.

As the vote count progressed, BJP leaders became assertive, saying they were confident of taking power again in Karnataka while Congress leaders began to speak about the possibility of an alliance with the JD-S.

BJP leader and Union Minister Sadanand Gowda said that there was no question of any alliance.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of Karnataka, met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi.

Analysts said the BJP was leading in Lingayat dominated seats and the JD-S in Vokkaliga dominated areas.

Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday.

Modi’s Performance: Survey Reports That Significant Number of People Rate Performance of Modi Government as Below Expectations

According to market observers, broadly subdued Asian indices and disappointing macro-economic inflation data points released on Monday capped some gains.

Sector-wise, healthy buying was witnessed in banking, capital goods, metals, consumer durables and automobile stocks.

The Sensex has so far touched a high of 35,993.53 points and a low of 35,498.83 points during the intra-day trade. (IANS)