NEW DELHI (TIP): The recent Rajya Sabha elections have given the BJP and allies a numerical edge over the Congress-led UPA in the Upper House, where the government hopes to finally push through the Goods and Services Tax or GST bill in the Monsoon session of Parliament.
After a meeting with state finance ministers this week, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley expressed relief at a broad consensus over GST, which affects a unified tax regime in the country.
The Congress, which has so far stalled the GST bill in the Rajya Sabha, is still adamant that it will not support it without amendments it wants and the question being asked is – can the government pass the bill in the Monsoon session even if the Congress opposes it?
“The government will try to get everyone on board but if the situation comes we are ready,” Mr Jaitley told NDTV recently.
The BJP and its allies, along with seven nominated members are now a bloc of 81 lawmakers. The UPA has 68. Others, the non-NDA and non-UPA parties are 91 lawmakers.
On GST, parties that have traditionally allied with the Congress are not necessarily on the same page. The Nationalist Congress Party, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), Bahujan Samaj Party and the Biju Janata Dal have already announced their support for the bill.
These parties together have 60 MPs, which means that GST has the avowed support of 141 lawmakers in the 245-member Rajya Sabha.
The anti-GST club has 80 – the Congress’ 60 and 20 others including the Left and Lalu Yadav’s RJD, which opposes the bill even though whose partner JDU led by Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar supports it as GST benefits Bihar.
A constitutional amendment needs two-thirds of the House to support it, which means the government needs 164 votes. Enter J Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, with 13 lawmakers. It opposes the bill because GST will bring losses for states like Tamil Nadu which are manufacturing states. But the government still hopes to bring the AIADMK on board. If it does, it will be just 10 short of a two-thirds majority. If the AIADMK abstains, the strength of the house will be down to 232 and the two-thirds magic mark will be at 155. The government will then be short of 14 votes.
Among the undecided are parties like the YSR Congress, Telangana Rashtriya Samiti, Janata Dal Secular and Independents, together six lawmakers.
The worry for the government is that even if it collects adequate support for the bill, the Congress could stall it simply by disrupting House.
Keenly watched is the stand nominated MPs like Sachin Tendulkar and actor Rekha will take.
Will they stay loyal to the Congress which nominated them or end up helping the government with crucial votes?