On Monday, the government made another attempt to bring the Congress on board on the controversial Goods and Service Tax (GST) Bill. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Congress leaders to iron out the differences on GST, but the talks remained inconclusive.
With just eight days left for the winter session to end, a desperate government is running out of time. Jaitley and the Parliamentary Affairs Minster M Venkaiah Naidu held talks with Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad and Deputy Leader of the House Anand Sharma over the passage of the GST bill in the Upper House.
The government is still keen to get the bill passed in this session so that GST, the key economic measure, can be rolled out from April 2016.
At the hour-long luncheon meeting in Naidu’s office in Parliament, both sides stated their respective positions after which Naidu merely said “we will continue to meet”. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia had also joined the meeting towards the end.
This fresh bid by the government to break the Parliament logjam comes at a time when the Congress has been stalling the proceedings in the Upper House over the National Herald case against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul Gandhi. The Congress has alleged political vendetta but continues to maintain that they are not stalling the House because of the Herald case.
Post the meeting with the Congress leaders Jaitley lashed out at them for deliberately disrupting the Parliament over different issues.
“The last session of the Parliament did not function. The current session of the Parliament is also threatened with a wash out. The reasons for the wash out of the current session keep changing by the hour….The nation is waiting for Parliament to discuss public issues, to legislate and approve a historic Constitution Amendment enabling the GST. All this is being indefinitely delayed. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we being fair to ourselves and this country?” the Finance Minister said in a Facebook post.
To drive his point, Jaitley also quoted a speech delivered by Pandit Nehru on the last day of first the Lok Sabha in in 1957. He also took a dig at the Congressmen holding the House to ransom.
“Here, we have sat in this Parliament, the sovereign authority of India, responsible for the governance of India. Surely, there can be no higher responsibility or greater privilege than to be a member of this sovereign body which is responsible for the fate of the vast number of human beings who live in this country. All of us, if not always, at any rate from time to time, must have felt this high sense of responsibility and destiny to which we had been called. Whether we were worthy of it or not is another matter. We have functioned, therefore, during these five years not only on the edge of history but sometimes plunging into the processes of making history, ” said Jaitley quoting Nehru in his post.
“Those who claim the legacy of Pandit ji must ask themselves the question, what kind of history are they making,” Jaitley said in an apparent attack on the Congress.
(With inputs from PTI)