GST Bill’s passage in turmoil amid political slugfest in Parliament


With the Congress-led Opposition set to continue its protests over allegations of the NDA’s “vindictive attitude”, chances of the GST bill’s passage are all but over in the ongoing Parliament session.

The Congress, government sources said, has already conveyed to the Centre’s floor managers informally that it will not allow the House to run till December 19, when party chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi are scheduled to appear in court for the National Herald case. With the winter session set to end on December 23, the government is bracing for another near-washout in the Rajya Sabha even as the Lower House continues to conduct regular business.

Facing a relentless Opposition tirade alleging vendetta in the National Herald case, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday expressed “sorrow” over the fresh round of disruptions and hit back at the principal Opposition party, saying, “Democracy cannot function at the whims and fancies of anyone.”

“You must have noticed these days there are more disruptions. Meri marzi—I will do whatever comes to my mind. Does the country run like this? Democracy does not function with mantantra (whims). The country does not run on its basis. Whatever you may think but the system does not run like this,” Modi said at a media event on Thursday, without naming any party.

As the Congress protests have hit legislative business, with the Upper House unable to transact any in the past week, the PM accused the Opposition of not allowing the poor people to achieve their rights. He reiterated the government’s commitment to building a consensus on the GST bill but questioned the loss to the poor people of the country due to parliamentary disruptions.

“It is a matter of sorrow that the poor are not being able to get their rights due to Parliament not functioning. However, the talk is only centred on GST versus Parliament. Whatever has to happen with the GST, it will be done in consultation with everybody to decide the fate of India but what about the poor, what about the common man?” the PM questioned.

When the winter session of Parliament started, hopes had brightened for the passage of the GST bill as PM Modi invited the Congress chief and his predecessor Manmohan Singh for talks to resolve the logjam on the tax legislation. The Congress, however, said the government was yet to get back to it after the party flagged three key objections in the current form of the bill.

“We have flagged our concerns and our comments on the bill. The Prime Minister had called a meeting which was attended by former PM Manmohan Singh and the Congress president. We had flagged our concern and submitted our precise objections. The government said it will come back with revised formulations. That was almost 10-12 days ago. As of Wednesday night, the Congress has not received any official word from the government,” former finance minister P Chidambaram told HT on Thursday.

Congress leaders pointed out party chief Sonia Gandhi had called a strategy meeting recently but it turned into a discussion on how to attack the government over the issue of political vendetta.

“When the government digs out a closed case and tries to send our leaders to jail, it can’t expect the Congress to support GST or any other bill,” a party leader said.

Facing an adamant Opposition, top sources said, a few government managers even discussed the option of adjourning the session early. No decision, however, was taken.


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