New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday said the passage of the goods and services tax bill was just a matter of time. But the opposition Congress party, which has been vehemently blocking it, brushed aside the assertion saying key issues remained unresolved.
"I think it is only a question of time. Obstruction won't continue indefinitely. When it's put to vote, I see it going through," Jaitley said at a conference hosted by the World Economic Forum.
He also told Bloomberg in an interview: "We are even willing to speak to any of their leaders." This was in reference to a question if he was game to raising the issue with Congress party vice president Rahul Gandhi.
"Am I willing to discuss with the Congress party? I have repeatedly said I am," he said, adding: "I've so far been discussing it with their leaders. I can't find conceptual opposition to it. I will once again speak to them and try to make them see reason."
But the Congress once again rejected the offer.
"First, the environment should be such that there can be dialogue between the government and the opposition. Parliamentary democracy cannot be reduced to one bill -- that it functions properly even the Congress wants," party spokesperson Anand Sharma said.
"If there is confrontonaist mindset of the prime minister and his ministers, it is difficult to create a conducive atomosphere or environment."
The principal opposition party wants the government not to pursue with the additional 1 percent tax that it intends to levied, over and above the prescribed rate for this pan-India levy, and also seeks that the same is notified in the bill itself.
The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, feels the 1-percent additional levy was essential if states are to be compensated for shifting to a pan-India tax regime, foregoing their own indirect tax levies. The party also feels specifying the rate in the bill will make alterations difficult.
Jaitley, nevertheless, had said here last week that the government would make all efforts to pass the GST bill in the forthcoming winter session of parliament. He expressed his satisfaction with the progress made in implementing taxation reforms, both direct and indirect.
"The supporting legislation and the IT backbone are ready. There is little conceptual opposition to the idea," he said, maintaining that the popular constituency which supports change, reforms and growth, was now much larger than before and wanted this far-reaching tax regime.
The GST envisages to subsume all central indirect taxes like excise duty, countervailing duty and service tax, as also state levies like value added tax, octroi or entry tax and luxury tax. The government has termed it the most reformist taxation step since independence.