More trouble for Congress as Trade and industry bodies to start a special campaign to ‘save GST’

Trade and Industry will mount a joint campaign on Wednesday in what is being seen as an attempt to save the Goods & Services Tax (GST) and ensure that the landmark reform legislation is approved by Parliament.

The logjam in Parliament has raised doubts about the passage of the key Constitution amendment bill in the current session to implement GST. If the legislation is not approved in this session, it will delay the planned rollout by April, 2016 of the most ambitious indirect tax regime since Independence.

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( FICCI), ASSOCHAM, PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) have come together to mount this campaign and sensitize the business community about the long term benefits of the mega indirect tax reform.

“The idea is to spread awareness and the need for GST,” said Sumit Mazumder, president of industry chamber CII.

“It is very difficult to predict how the opposition will react on the GST legislation but as industry we want the legislation to be approved,” Mazumder said when asked whether he expects the bill to be approved in the current session.

The government is keen to get the bill approved in the winter session to meet the rollout date of April 1, 2016. It has reached out to the opposition and is scheduled to launch another bid to forge a consensus and ensure the crucial legislation’s passage. The NDA government has identified the implementation of GST as a key reform priority and Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes to launch it by April ,2016. Doubts about the passage of the key Constitution amendment bill have surfaced as the winter session ends on December 22.

The Congress party has stalled Parliament over what it calls “political vendetta” on the National Herald case under which party president Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have been asked to appear before the Delhi High Court. The government has made it clear that the Congress leaders should fight their legal battle in court and not hold Parliament hostage over the case.

“It is an attempt to impress upon all political parties to provide safe passage to the GST bill. Trade and industry have come together for this initiative. The GST is the ultimate tax reform,” said Praveen Khandelwal, national secretary general of CAIT.

In probably a first-of-its-kind initiative, over 20,000 people, including the country’s top industrialists launched an online signature campaign in August, urging lawmakers to allow Parliament to function, debate and legislate. The petition signalled India Inc’s restlessness at the legislative logjam. With the Constitution amendment bill stuck in Parliament, there seems to be unease among India Inc about the pace of reforms.