Jaitley calls on Congress to act responsibly, help pass GST bill

Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday called upon the principal opposition party, the Congress, to fulfill its duty as a responsible party and help the government complete the task of passing legislation on the key goods and services tax (GST) by ending the logjam in the Rajya Sabha, the upper ho use of Parliament.

Jaitley urged the party to think about the "legacy and history" it would leave behind by opposing the landmark reform, which, he said, could take the country's economic growth to 8-9 per cent levels.

"I would urge the current leadership of Congress party also to look at the history and legacy they want to leave behind. Support these measures so that we are able to grow faster. We have more money to get rid of poverty much faster," Jaitley said.

Replying to a debate on the supplementary demands for grants in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley said implementation of GST will help the economy realise its potential of 8-9 per cent growth. "It is not difficult for India to grow at 8-9 per cent. It is not impossible," he added.

The FM said the best way to fight poverty was to accelerate growth to create jobs and that the government has been pursuing that goal. "Those who try to create impediments want to perpetuate poverty.... By short-sighted vision, we end up hurting the poor in this country," he said.

Jaitley lauded the support of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, who have risen above narrow political interests.

Jaitley is making a last-minute attempt to end the impasse in Parliament over a private case against Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi , the president and vice president, respectively, of the Congress party over alleged misappropriation of the assets belonging to the erstwhile National Herald newspaper and its publishers.

The government has made several efforts to break the deadlock over GST but the Congress is yet to signal its support. Experts, however, say it would be difficult for the government to meet the deadline of rolling out GST by 1 April 2016, however hard it tries.

Jaitley said growth in the current fiscal would be in the 7-7.5 per cent range.

He said the government would meet the fiscal deficit target of 3.9 per cent of gross domestic product and would try to achieve a better quality of fiscal deficit without resorting to a cut in expenditure.

In fact, he said, the government has stepped up spending on social sectors.

Jaitley is banking on higher indirect tax collections to mop up revenue despite an expected shortfall in direct tax receipts. Also, he said, a spurt in foreign fund inflows would help improve investment climate.