The Gujarat Legislative Assembly ratified the Constitution Amendment Bill on Goods and Service Tax (GST) unopposed on the last day of monsoon session on Tuesday in the absence of Congress MLAs who were suspended for creating ruckus before the Bill was tabled for discussion and voting.
“The Bill has been ratified unopposed by Gujarat Assembly,” Speaker Ramanlal Vora announced in the House after the bill was passed by voice vote by BJP legislators in absence of their counterparts from Congress. Passed by Parliament recently, the bill needs to be ratified by at least 15 state legislatures before the President can notify the GST Council which will decide the new tax rate and other issues.
The government has set April 1, 2017 as target for rolling out GST, considered as the biggest tax reform. While introducing the Bill, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who handles the finance portfolio, said the Congress- led UPA government had failed to evolve consensus in various states to ensure passage of the legislation. He hailed Narendra Modi-led NDA government for achieving the uphill task of passing the long-pending legislation in Parliament.
The deliberations on this Bill were on for last 10 years. The previous UPA government tried hard to implement the bill, but failed. As soon as Modi government took over in 2014, he (Modi) and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley started fresh discussions with states to clear their doubts. Within just two years, Modi government successfully created an atmosphere of trust by taking everyone into confidence, something which Congress-led UPA could not do. As a result, the GST Bill was passed in both Houses of Parliament unanimously, despite the fact the BJP lacks majority in Rajya Sabha.Nitin Patel, Deputy Chief Minister, Gujarat
“If opposition MLAs were here, they would have asked me why BJP’s Gujarat government did not cooperate with UPA government on GST in the past. My answer is that the previous draft did not have a provision to compensate states for the losses it would incur due to new GST rates. We were only given oral assurance, nothing on paper,” Nitin Patel, who came prepared with explanations for questions which could have been asked by the Opposition during discussion, said.
Earlier in the day, 50 Congress MLAs were evicted and suspended for a day from the Assembly after they staged a demonstration and disrupted the House proceedings over the Una Dalit flogging incident.
However, in this new Bill, there is a clear provision to compensate states for possible losses due to uniform tax structure. As per the Bill, the central government will bear the losses, if any, for five years. This was not there in the old Bill. Earlier, Gujarat wanted to keep the tax revenues collected from petroleum exploration, refining and production of by-products. However, Centre did not agree with it, as they wanted to keep it with themselves.Nitin Patel, Deputy Chief Minister, Gujarat
He said Gujarat is a petroleum hub having refineries of ONGC as well as private players and that 40 per cent of state’s tax income comes from that sector. “Modi government took into account our contention and announced that income from taxes on petroleum production and refining would remain with the states,” the minister added. Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand and Chhattisgarh have already ratified the GST Bill.