The stalemate between the ruling BJP and the principal opposition Congress party over Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill is far from over. Even Union Parliamentary Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu’s meeting with Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi has not yielded in any movement forward. On the contrary, some Congress leaders have dubbed the reaching out of Modi government over the GST Bill as mere “optics”.
Even as the BJP accused Congress party of being unsupportive over GST Bill, the latter had flayed the ruling party saying it is putting up a “false smoke screen”, even going to an extent of terming the BJP’s attitude on GST as “doublespeak”.
“BJP government, including Prime Minister and Finance Minister, has been putting up false smoke screen by accusing Congress for obstructing GST, while the truth is that GST stands consistently red-flagged for last nine years by RSS and Swadeshi Jagran Manch,” senior Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil told the press at New Delhi.
“BJP government has resorted to misleading and dramatic optics to masquerade its mal-intent rather than sincere operationalisation of GST in the interest of people of India,” Gohil added strongly while briefing the press at AICC headquarters.
Firming its claims, the principal opposition party furnished a number of purported documents to show that PM Modi had “consistently and bitterly opposed the GST” when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
“Between the years 2007 to 2014, 54 meetings of ‘Empowered Committee of State Finance Ministers’ were held. In each meeting, Modi-led Gujarat government not only opposed the Constitutional amendment comprising GST Bill but also described it against the federal spirit of Constitution as also the rights of states to fiscal autonomy,” Shaktisinh Gohil alleged adding, “What completely exposes the doublespeak of BJP is the fact that in the 2009 election manifesto, BJP itself had suggested a maximum taxation cap of 12 per cent to 14 per cent.”
Earlier, another senior leader and former Union minister Kapil Sibal had dismissed Venkaiah Naidu’s meeting with Sonia Gandhi as mere “optics”.
“What proposal? There is no proposal from the government side. If he had to accept our demands why would Finance Minister Arun Jaitley say that shrinking Congress strength in Rajya Sabha will make GST happen,” Sibal said.
The Congress leader also rebuffed suggestions that government accepted the demands of Congress and sent a proposal to Ms Gandhi through Union minister Naidu.
“RSS and Swadeshi Jagaran Manch have red-flagged the reform measure,” he said further adding, “This is all optics. Naidu came and met Sonia Gandhi. They have to show all this. Had there been anything substantial, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Jaitley would have gone on Twitter now”.
In a second major outreach after PM Modi had invited Sonia Gandhi and former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh at his residence last month, Venkaiah Naidu had on Thursday called on the Congress party president seeking her support for its passage of the constitutional amendment legislation. He had also suggested calling an early Budget Session to pass the pending bills including GST.
“….met the Congress President and recalled to her that as per the discussion held earlier, Congress party should finalize its stand. They had raised some issues, which were answered by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley…. I reminded her that a quick decision should be taken and we should move forward immediately on the GST and the Real Estate Bill,” Naidu had told reporters after the 20-minute long meeting.
Congress is seeking a cap on the GST rate at 18 percent and a deletion of the provision of 1 per cent additional tax. They also want an independent mechanism to resolve disputes and disagreements between the state and the Centre and within the states — three sticking points over the passage of GST, which has led to a political logjam.