Conveying his best wishes to 53 retiring members of the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Friday it would have been good for the states had the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill been passed during their tenure. While important reform measures were passed, “it would have been better if two critical decisions had also been approved,” he felt, referring to the GST Bill and the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Bill.
Modi also noted that Rajya Sabha members were representatives of the states and the interests of their respective states should be a priority for them. GST, which is to subsume all indirect taxes like excise duty and service tax into a single rate, was to be implemented from last month but opposition from the Congress over key clauses, including cap on the tax rate, had stalled its passage in the Upper House.
Lok Sabha has already approved the constitutional amendment but it remains pending in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA does not have a majority. Modi termed CAMPA the second crucial legislation. “States would have got Rs 42,000 crore if we had decided on the legislation,” he pointed out, adding each state would have got Rs 2,000-3,000 crore. The bill seeks to establish a national fund to promote afforestation and regeneration activities as a way of compensating forest land diverted to non-forest uses.
“This (Rs 2000-3000 crore) is not a small amount,” Modi underlined, adding that availability of funds before the beginning of the monsoon season would have helped the states. Speaking after him, Congress leader Anand Sharma noted that the House had cleared important legislations like Bangladesh land boundary agreement, insurance bill that had been pending for seven years and the insolvency bill. But, he blamed the BJP for the GST impasse.
'Sparring partners':- In his farewell speech, outgoing RS MP Jairam Ramesh quoted cricketer Vijay Merchant and said, “it is better to go when people ask why is he going rather than why isn't he going”. Jaitley corrected him for 'one last time', saying it was Gavaskar who said so.