Parliament is set for another round of showdown as the government readies to give a final push to a bill in the Rajya Sabha to introduce the goods and services tax .
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has issued a whip to all its lawmakers to be present at Parliament on Wednesday as the monsoon session, which is headed for a complete washout, nears its end.
The Congress, on the other hand, has made it clear that it is not willing to relent unless its demands are met.
The principal opposition party has disrupted House business this monsoon session, demanding the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi get UK travel documents. The Congress also wants the ouster of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the multi-crore Vyapam scandal.
On Tuesday, the government introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill in the Upper House to roll out the GST offering to compensate states for at least five years to offset any potential revenue loss after migrating to the new system.
The Congress supported by the Left, however, did not allow any discussions on the proposed legislation which, the finance minister says, can raise India’s GDP by 2%.
The bill has the backing of many non-NDA and non-UPA parties like the SP, BJD and Trinamool Congress, but the Congress, Left and AIADMK together can block its passage as the Rajya Sabha must endorse the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill with a two-thirds majority.
The BJP only has 48 seats in the 245-member Upper House.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said the government would try “all politically and constitutionally correct measures” to get the bill passed, while he criticised Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi for blocking its way.
“It is clear that its two leaders have taken their 2014 defeat very badly. And therefore they are unable to accept the fact that anybody outside the Gandhi family can also rule this country,” Jaitley said.
The new system, if implemented, will significantly alter the country’s tax administration by replacing a string of central and local levies such as excise, value added tax and octroi with a single unified tax and stitching together a common national market.
On Tuesday, pandemonium prevailed in Lok Sabha as well, with agitated Congress members tearing papers and throwing them towards deputy speaker M Thambi Durai. The opposition continued their vociferous protest.
The House was adjourned for the day after two adjournments as there was no let-up in the protest despite speaker Sumitra Mahajan strongly expressing her anguish over the developments.
“I am extremely sad over the way you (Congress members) behaved with the chair,” she said. “…This is murder of democracy. This is not democracy.”
The speaker added she had asked the Lok Sabha TV to show pandemonium on television.
“Show them on TV. I am requesting the Lok Sabha TV. This is not the way. I won’t adjourn the House… Let people see what kind of behaviour they are showing. Let whole of India watch. 40 people are hijacking the rights of 440 members.”