The government will establish ‘fresh contact’ with the Congress once the party completes its internal discussion on the three issues of ‘their concerns’ on which they made their position clear
After a virtual washout of the Monsoon Session of Parliament, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to the principal Opposition party, the Congress, for getting passed the GST Constitution amendment bill, inviting party president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh for a 45-minute meeting.
Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said after the meeting that the Congress put forward three reservations on the bill, “to which the Government offered a detailed explanation with a backgrounder.”
The Congress would like to cap the rate of GST at 18 per cent, scrap a proposed state levy and create an independent mechanism to resolve disputes on revenue sharing between states.
The government side, led by Jaitley is believed to have argued that these conditions were not there in the original GST Bill, when the then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee introduced the bill in 2011, or when P Chidambaram later was the FM.
Sources, however, say that the government may consider the Congress’s demand to scrap the proposed “entry tax” of 1 per cent as a compromise formula.
After the exchange of views, the Congress will discuss the ideas internally, and there could be more rounds of discussions between the government and the Congress on GST. Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said that it was a constructive engagement and it was work in progress.
Apart from PM Modi, Jaitley, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu was also present in the meeting.
Naidu meanwhile will reach out to Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament.
The government’s reaching out to the Opposition is in sharp contrast to its approach during the monsoon session when a lack of communication had resulted in a complete washout of the session.
The PM’s reaching out to the mainline Opposition was due to tremendous public pressure, said Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi, who was not invited to the discussion.
Earlier, speaking in the Lok Sabha, while winding up the discussion on the Constitution and Dr B R Ambedkar, M0di’s approach was conciliatory wherein he showered encomiums on Pandit Nehru and other Prime Ministers. “Consensus is more important that a majority,” he said during the day of the discussion.
Congress leaders claim that the change in heart of the Prime Minister happened when Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Dr Manmohan Singh, Rahul Gandhi and others to extend an invite for his daughter’s wedding.
“The signal that he was given to him was that the reaching out process must be initiated from the very top,” add Congress leaders.
Significantly, however, after Friday’s development, the likelihood of the winter session running purposefully have brightened.