PM willing to speak to everyone on GST Bill: Jaitley

Offering an olive branch to the Opposition to get the GST bill passed, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is willing to speak to everyone to get the landmark indirect tax law through.

Jaitley, who needs Parliament approval for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the winter session to roll out the new indirect tax regime from planned April 1, said he has spoken to “almost all Congress leaders” on the issue.

“We have absolutely no hesitation even at the level of Prime Minister, we have never had in it in the past, we don’t have it (now). He is willing to speak to everyone,” he said.

He was asked about Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi’s charge that Prime Minister does not pick up phone to speak to Sonia Gandhi like the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who used to engage with him as leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha and Sushma Swaraj of Lok Sabha.

“I have personally discussed with almost every leader of the Congress party, more particularly in Parliament and I am emphasising the word every leader of the Congress party,” Jaitley told Times Now news channel.

He hoped that since the Congress party has been “rightly claiming” that the GST is their proposal and they moved it, “I am certainly willing to discuss it with them.”

“I am willing with an open mind and positively willing to discuss with the Congress party and also with the other political parties” the validity of three demands presented by the Congress party, he said.

The Congress had stalled passage of the GST Constitution Amendment Bill in the last session of Parliament over its demand that a revenue-neutral rate not higher than 18 per cent be mentioned in the Constitution Amendment bill. It is also opposed to states being given powers to levy additional 1 per cent tax on supply of goods over and above GST rate.

“I quite agree with the Congress party leadership when they say that a solution has to be found by way of discussion.

That is the correct position. We are willing to discuss with them and try and find the best possible solution,” he said.

Jaitley however added a caveat that “in the process of a political compromise, India cannot have a GST with a flawed architecture. Once you amend the Constitution, it is going to take decades to correct those errors.” .