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States’ GST concerns met: Jaitley

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in theRajya Sabha on Friday.— PHOTO: PTI/ TV GRAB

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley speaks in theRajya Sabha on Friday.— PHOTO: PTI/ TV GRAB  

Rajya Sabha passes Appropriation Bill in rare show of unity

Setting aside their differences on the issue of religious conversions, Rajya Sabha members on Friday passed the Appropriation (No. 4) Bill, 2014, by voice vote after Finance Minister assured the House that concerns of all the States had been taken care of in the proposed Goods and Services Tax Bill, which will be taken up in the next Parliament session.

The Appropriation Bill authorises payment and appropriation of certain additional sums from the Consolidated Fund of India for 2014-15.

Although the Opposition, led by Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad, stuck to its position that the Prime Minister must reply on the conversion issue, it made a concession for the Appropriation Bill, a money legislation. The Bill was approved by the Lok Sabha on December 10.

Responding to queries from members, Mr. Jaitley said the GST Bill would bring the “single biggest tax reform since Independence.”

The Minister said reports that MGNREGA allocations were cut were untrue, as were rumours that the government was planning to lower the retirement age to 58. The budgetary allocation for the MGNREGA was in fact Rs. 1,000 crore more than what the previous United Progressive Alliance government had allocated. So it was a part of a “structured political conspiracy that such myths are being spread.”

Earlier, the House was adjourned for the fifth consecutive day. Making an appearance for the first time since the session began, Mr. Azad referred to Mr. Modi’s election speeches, and said he had sought votes for “himself, not the BJP, and he was therefore answerable.”

“We respect the Prime Minister. Seeking votes for himself is not bad. I am not casting aspersions on him. It is not anti-national or a crime. Because he has given the pain, he must give the medicine,” Mr. Azad said.

Even as the BJP MPs protested, Mr. Azad said the Prime Minister should assure all communities that everyone was safe. “The House is demanding that the PM must come and respect this House… If he maintains silence, it will harm the BJP.”

He said the warm reception the Prime Minister received when he went abroad was because he represented the 125-crore multi-religious country.

The House was adjourned shortly thereafter, as Opposition members trooped into the Well of the House.

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