Congress spokesman and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh says his party is all for early introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), and is prepared to discuss any niggling issues.

In a recent chat with BusinessLine , Ramesh observed that there was a lack of bonhomie between the Congress and the BJP in Parliament.

He contrasted the current situation with that of 1991, when the Congress, under the leadership of PV Narasimha Rao, brought in path-breaking reforms by building bridges with the Opposition. (The NDA has since reached out to the Congress for support on the GST Bill)

‘Can be sorted out’

Stressing that the Congress was “committed irrevocably” to the GST, and that “there is no going back”, Ramesh said differences could be sorted out by discussion. For instance, the ticklish issue of whether the cap for the rate of tax should be written into the Constitution, or just woven into the GST Bill could be discussed.

Ramesh, however, was opposed to the 25 per cent GST rate, as suggested by the ruling NDA, calling it a “recipe for disaster”. He wanted the rate to be 18 per cent “give or take a few percentage points”. He said the ‘one per cent additional tax’ was an aberration, but noted that the government had agreed to withdraw it. “This third issue is the ‘independent dispute settlement mechanism’, which we can discuss,” Ramesh said.

Centre to blame

Finding fault with the government for not building consensus, Ramesh said that what the government ought not to do is to begin a discussion on GST and then go and try to topple Congress-ruled governments in States.

“There should be a discussion, but the next day you should not disturb (say) Siddharamaiah (the Karnataka Chief Minister),” he said.

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