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GST Bill Debate: Rajya Sabha Undermined, All Members Should Resign, Says Congress' Veerappa Moil

Congress leader Veerappa Moily, speaking during the debate on GST bills, dared all members of the Rajya Sabha today to quit "if they have some pride left". Mr Moily's counsel is based on the Congress premise that the government has demonstrated its determination to exclude the Rajya Sabha from any say in legislation.

The principle of a national tax was cleared by parliament in August 2016. Today, the Lok Sabha will debate and then vote on four bills required to implement the GST, which unifies India into one market and does away with a jumble of taxes that differ from state to state. Businesses say the GST will make manufacturing cheaper; Finance Minister Arun Jaitley says the landmark Goods and Services Tax reform or GST will likely add 2 percentage points to growth.

The government is keen to rollout GST by July 1, which gives it just till April 12 when this parliament session ends, to get the necessary laws passed.

The four GST bills that are being considered today are "Money Bills" - while they must be cleared by the Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha does not get to vote on them, and any changes it suggests are not binding. The Congress says the government is using the route of Money Bills far too often to deprive the opposition the opportunity to seek changes - the government has a big majority in the Lok Sabha, so its proposals coast through the Lower House; it is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, and here, it does not put crucial legislation to vote, the Congress says. . "What is the point of having the council of states," Mr Moily said, calling the Money Bill route "the biggest assault on democracy".

The Congress is the largest party in the Rajya Sabha with 59 members, three more than 56 of the BJP. The majority mark in the House is 122.

Opposition parties have objected this week to the government making a series of amendments to the Finance Bill, which is a Money Bill, and, when passed, converts the annual budget into law. These amendments will change 40 other laws, they have said. "By tacking these changes onto a money bill, the government has ensured that they've been signed into law by Modi's partymen in just one house," said a Bloomberg column yesterday.

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