When will Congress understand good of nation?
It is unfortunate that the Congress has reacted negatively to the initiative Union Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Venkaiah Naidu took in meeting Congress president Sonia Gandhi to seek her party’s support in getting the Goods and Services Tax Bill passed. Instead of seeing it as a positive effort to find common ground on a matter vital to the country’s economic interest, the Congress has dubbed it as “optics” and claimed the Union Government “had no interest” in the passage of the Bill.
This is a ridiculous accusation, given that such meetings are an essential part of democracy to thrash out differences between opposing parties. One such commendable effort had been made weeks ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi met former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ms Gandhi to clear the way for the GST regime. Sadly, the goodwill then created seems to have dissipated. The Congress must give up its obstinacy. It cannot any longer claim that the Government has been incommunicative on the issue; various senior functionaries have informally and formally met leaders of the Congress to take the process forward. In addition, the Government has given firm indications that it is willing to positively consider most of the issues the opposition party has flagged, although it has politely indicated where the red line should be drawn.
It is well known that many leaders of the Congress believe the party must not continue to block the passage of the GST regime, having made its point and gained some concession from the Government. This is also the overwhelming view industry and non-partisan observers hold. The Government’s urgency is understandable because, if the GST Bill cannot go through in the forthcoming Budget Session, there is little chance of its implementation during the course of the year. Mr Naidu had informed the Congress president that the Government was even willing to convene the Budget Session on an earlier date than planned if her party was on board. But he returned with no precise assurance; only a non-committal response that Ms Gandhi would discuss the matter with her colleagues. It appears that the Congress is unwilling to discard its ‘opposition for the sake of opposition’ strategy.
Meanwhile, the Congress’s allegation that the Narendra Modi Government is seeking to mislead the country by making it seem that the GST held the key to economic development is strange. It is the Congress which had authored the original Bill; had pushed for its early passage; and blamed the Bharatiya Janata Party (then in opposition at the Centre) and its Chief Ministers, for stalling it. Even today, it continues to dig out objections BJP leaders had made in the past. Such exercises of tit-for-tat do nothing to create a consensus today. Invoking the past is not always the best way to tackle present and future challenges. It’s time the Congress appreciated this reality.