Senior leaders of BJP say the meeting is crucial because the govt is once again trying to build consensus around reforms bills, including the GST Bill
New Delhi: Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan has called for an all-party meeting on 24 April, a day before the start of the second half of the budget session, to see if the government and opposition benches can once again work out an understanding of the kind that helped the passage of bills in the first half.
Senior leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said the meeting is crucial because the government is once again trying to build consensus around important reforms bills and for the smooth functioning of both the houses of Parliament.
The government is particularly keen to see the constitutional amendment bill for the goods and services tax (GST) voted through. Ministers have already lobbied with Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik seeking the support of his Biju Janata Dal, when he was in Delhi last week.
“The effort is to let the Parliament function. Hopes have risen because of the way some important bills were passed in the first half of the budget session. This session too should be fruitful,” said a senior minister, who declined to be named.
During the first half of the budget session, from 23 February to 16 March, the government and opposition came together to clear the Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2016, that aims to introduce transparency and accountability in the property market.
Although the Congress, the largest opposition party, has said it will not support any controversial legislation, the government has signalled that it will make a fresh attempt to break the deadlock over the GST bill in the second half of the budget session, which runs from 25 April to 17 May.
Finance minister Arun Jaitley said earlier this month that the government will initiate talks with the Congress.
The Samajwadi Party has also agreed to support the GST bill, according to a member of Parliament of the party. “The Samajwadi Party has taken a decision to support the GST bill in Parliament. The party has taken a stand on GST and there will be no change in it,” said the leader, who declined to be named.
However, opposition to the draft tax reform law continues from the Congress and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK). The problem for the BJP is that the ruling National Democratic Alliance has only 64 MPs out of the total 245 MPs in the Rajya Sabha, where the bill awaits a vote. The NDA needs the support of at least 161 MPs for the passage of the GST Bill in the upper house.
Senior leaders of the Congress said that the government had not made any new attempt to hold talks on GST and that the Congress, in any case, wants a detailed debate on the political crisis in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh before discussions on crucial legislation.
“There have been enough developments in the past few weeks, including what happened in Uttarakhand—what the central government did there was unconstitutional. In the backdrop of both Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, I don’t think there is any meeting ground for the government to reach out to us,” said a Congress leader, requesting anonymity.
Uttarakhand was placed under President’s rule on 27 March, after a political crisis was triggered by the defection of nine Congress members of the legislative assembly (MLAs), led by former chief minister and Congress leader Vijay Bahuguna, to the opposition BJP.
In Arunachal Pradesh, after a brief spell of political instability and President’s rule, dissident leader Kalikho Pul took oath as chief minister in February, dislodging former chief minister and party veteran Nabam Tuki. In both instances, the Congress alleged political interference and manipulation by the Union government to dislodge an elected state government.
“I think the Uttarakhand political crisis will play up in this session, and the Congress has a number of reasons to disrupt the House. However, I do feel that there is a rethink going on in the party because they have blocked the GST for too long. The BJP is also running a campaign that the Congress is not willing to pass the bill,” said Abhay Kumar Dubey, a New Delhi-based political analyst associated with the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a think-tank.
“The problem is that this government has not done enough to reach out to the opposition parties; even some of the NDA members are not happy about it. Regardless of their legislative agenda being affected, the ruling BJP does not seem willing to change this approach,” he added.