After the series of electoral losses, the BJP's growing in power in the Rajya Sabha and now Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's remark that all states except Tamil Nadu have accepted the broader contours of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) will put the Congress in more than a spot of bother.
If the NDA government of Narendra Modi can succeed in pushing through the crucial tax reform measure, then the Congress could be left without any susbstantial issue as an Opposition, giving the prime minister a highway to cruise along. [Salient features of draft GST bill]
Rajya Sabha magic figure doesn't look distant for NDA now
The rise of the NDA's numbers in the Upper House to 74, three more than the UPA, gives the BJP a psychological edge over the Congress ahead of the Monsoon Session. In the House of 245, the magic mark is 123 and the NDA is in a much better position now to achieve that. [What is Modi govt thinking about big economic reforms?]
The BJP will need support of two-third majority of its Rajya Sabha members to push through the GST---a constitutional amendment bill. If the BJP can get the support of the Trinamool Congress (12 seats), JD(U) (13 seats) and BSP (10 seats) and also convince Jayalalithaa's AIADMK (12 seats) in a political trade off, then the saffron party will not have much of a concern. [Why Jayalalithaa is against GST]
Positive opposition can only save Congress now
In fact, the Congress should have understood by now that its only chance in successfully competing with Modi now lies in a positive opposition. Creating ruckus in Parliament will not earn it mileage for it will not be successful in mobilising support from the regional parties since its own significance is eroding fast. In today's politics, opposition for the sake of opposition has a limitation. Mamata Banerjee has learnt it in Bengal and she has grown stronger. The Left hasn't and hence perished.
Modi has given Rahul a chance to survive
From the point of political philosophy, Modi has given Rahul Gandhi a rope to survive and the latter should make full use of it to regain some trust among the electorate by backing the GST. It is very crucial for the country's economy as it promises to roll in various state-level levies into one and broaden the tax base. It will attract foreign investors who avoid India because of its several tax regimes. The GST can push the economic growth significantly once this issue is addressed.
Congress's three-point challenge to GST
The Congress, which is the original architect of the GST, differs with the BJP on three points: whether or not to include the GST rate (agreed to be around 18 per cent) in the Constitution; doing away with the inter-state levies and setting up an independent dispute resolution procedure.
Of these three measures, only the contention over capping the GST in the bill holds some significance but even then, the Congress's resistance will not work for long since the states have agreed on no cap on the GST.
The Congress's best option now is to back the GST for it can only save its face through a cooperative approach now. Otherwise, PM Modi has left little room for the Opposition to manouvre.