November 4, 2015
NEW DELHI: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that he is willing to reach out to Rahul Gandhi for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, the government's biggest reform measure stuck in Parliament due to opposition from the Congress.
"We are willing to speak to any of their leaders," Mr Jaitley was quoted as saying by Bloomberg News.
Asked if that includes Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, Mr Jaitley said: "Certainly. Why not?"
The Goods and Services Tax, aimed at doing away with more than a dozen state levies to create a single market, is to be enforced from April 1. But the deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the constitutional amendment in the winter session.
"I would try and persuade them to have it cleared now, as soon as possible, because it is going to be one of the most important reforms in India," the finance minister said.
Mr Jaitley's comments came on a day he sparred with Rahul Gandhi over the Congress party's march to protest against what it calls rising intolerance.
"Where is intolerance? This country has never been and will never be intolerant," said Mr Jaitley.
Speaking to reporters after meeting President Pranab Mukherjee, Mr Gandhi said: "The finance minister should go and see reality from inside."
Once the GST Bill is passed, more than half of the states have to ratify it before Parliament passes another enabling bill to implement GST.
The Congress is opposed to states being given powers to impose one per cent tax over and above the GST rate. Also, it wants alcohol and petroleum products to be included in the new tax regime.
"Since it is a Constitution amendment and it will stand the test of time, I don't want to create an architecture which is faulty, and some of their suggestions could hurt that architecture," Mr Jaitley said when asked if he would compromise.
"But if there is something which doesn't hurt but strengthens the GST architecture, I am certainly willing to look at it...So far, we have been speaking to the more accessible section of the Congress party."