Beyond economic reforms: BJP stands to gain politically from passage of GST Bill
As the Constitutional Amendment Bill for Goods and Services Tax or GST passed the Rajya Sabha test yesterday, the Narendra Modi-led NDA government hailed it as a big win for its reforms agenda.
Narendra Modi stormed to power in 2014 on the plank of ‘big bang reforms’ that would create an ease of doing business in the country and pit India as a favourable nation for investment. The Bill was one of the many in that direction.
This came nearly a year after the government conceded defeat in the form of the Land Acquisition Bill. Last year, the government failed to convince a united Opposition and even a few of its own allies to amend the Land Acquisition Act of 2013, brought in and passed by the UPA government of Manmohan Singh.
In case of the GST though, the government succeeded in convincing all parties except the AIADMK which rules Tamil Nadu to support the bill in Rajya Sabha. The bill was passed by a rare consensus, with all members present in the House supporting it. AIADMK had walked out before the bill was put to vote.
All BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other senior ministers hailed it as a big win for the NDA in the sector of economic reforms.
But what the leaders shied away from was acknowledging the political gains that the bill would usher in for the BJP.
In the two years of BJP rule, the party displayed several times of its “bulldozing approach”. Every Parliament session since BJP came to power was marred with one controversy or another, costing the government precious time. And the government showed no intention of pacifying the fuming Opposition and only aggravated the situation with its politics of confrontation.
This season, however, was different. Even as the political landscape is being hijacked by the politics around alleged atrocities against Dalits, the government did not shy away from debate. Result - no walkout by the opposition and healthy debate in the Upper House.
While the Rajya Sabha was debating vigilantism by Hindu rightwing gau rakshak dals at the floor of the House, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was holding back to back to meetings with opposition leaders.
And the efforts have paid off. The government can now shed off the tag of ‘being confrontational’ and can claim to be ‘diplomatic’. It can now show that it has the mettle and determination of running the government effectively which it can not do without the support of opposition parties.
An impression was building up that the government was not capable of taking the Opposition along. The passage of the GST Bill now breaks that impression. It shows that the BJP government has come a long way from its slogan of ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’ and is now ready to recognise the role of the Opposition, particularly Congress in ruling the country.
The government also refrained from taking direct credit for the bill and accepted that Congress had a major role in bringing the GST, and deserved as much credit, if not more.
It is yet to see if the BJP could reap the benefits of GST, if any, in upcoming Assembly elections in several states. Nevertheless, the passage of this bill does act as a big step forward for Narendra Modi, the statesman from being just a politician.