Govt in huddle before Parl session; GST tops priority

RSTV Bureau

Arun-Jaitley-ParlTwo days ahead of the winter session of the Parliament, the top Union Ministers on Monday held a meeting to deliberate over its floor strategy, especially how to go ahead with its economic agenda and the passage of all-crucial Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill. The Modi-led government is hoping to get the principal opposition party Congress on board to through the constitutional amendment bill GST that it seeks to roll out from April 1, 2016.

Union Ministers of Home, Finance, External Affairs, Defence and Parliamentary Affairs — Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Manohar Parrikar and M Venkaiah Naidu respectively — met to give final touches to their strategy.

“We are hopeful to get Congress’ support for the passage of important reform bill which are in the national interest,” MoS Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who also attended the meet, said adding the government’s agenda is to run the two Houses smoothly and get the bills passed by reaching out to the opposition.

BJP-Modi-Advani-JaitleyThe session may turn out to be another testing affair for Narendra Modi government, succeeding the stormy Monsoon session where both the houses witnessed opposition protest over Lalit Modi issue and ‘Vyapam’ scam in BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh. The Opposition parties, especially the bloc led by Congress party, are set to raise the issue of “rising intolerance” in a big way in the upcoming Winter session of the Parliament scheduled to begin on November 26.

Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi also told the press that senior ministers like Singh, Jaitley and Naidu among others had spoken to leaders of various opposition parties, seeking their cooperation.

Union Finance minister Arun Jaitley earlier this month had reached out to the principal opposition party, saying he has been discussing the issue with a number of Congress members.

“Am I willing to discuss with the Congress party? I have repeatedly said I am…. I have so far been discussing it with their leaders and I can’t find at least conceptual opposition to it. I will once again speak to them and try to make them see reason,” he had said at an event organized by the World Economic Forum and CII on November 4.

Cong---Sonia,-Rahul-n-Manmohan

On its part, the Congress party has been sending the signals on the issue of crucial GST Bill that it wanted the bill to be passed if the concerns of the party are met. Congress party is seeking a cap on the GST rate at 18 percent, deletion of the provision of one percent tax by additional levy, and an independent mechanism to resolve disputes and disagreements between the state and the Centre and within the states.

Congress party President Sonia Gandhi is also expected to call a meeting this week to work out the party strategy for the Winter session.

A total of 38 Bills, including some finance bills, are awaiting parliamentary approval. The crucial GST bill is also pending in Rajya Sabha or the Upper House of Parliament, which the government hopes to pass in the upcoming session.

Looking ahead at the session beginning from November 26, the government has also called an all-party meeting on Wednesday morning. BJP parliamentary party executive and NDA constituents will meet later at the Prime Minister’s residence followed by an all-party meeting.

(With inputs from the PTI)