NEW DELHI: What was simmering within the Congress came out in the open on Monday with senior party leader Veerappa Moily complaining on the floor of the House that the government ignored Lok Sabha stalwarts during the GST negotiations, drawing a response from Prime Minister Narendra Modi later in the day.
Moily sounded rather upset: “This House is taken as ‘junior partner’. We always feel Rajya Sabha is more important. That’s why you (Finance Minister Arun Jaitley) discuss everything with the Rajya Sabha.”
Further highlighting the government’s overtures to the Upper House, where it depended on the Opposition to muster the two-thirds majority required to pass the 122nd Constitutional Amendment Bill, Moily pointed out that a Rajya Sabha Select Committee was set up to look into the provisions of the GST Bill, ignoring demands for a Joint Select Committee made by the Lok Sabha members.
“It seems, [the government thinks] there are no brains here. All the brains are in the Rajya Sabha,” Moily interjected, adding that when “we had demanded a Joint Select Committee, you bulldozed it. If you had listened, things (GST) would have been sorted out much earlier for you”. Moily further said that “democracy is not just about majority, but also about evolving consensus”.
In the Lok Sabha, the role of the Opposition is limited, given the overwhelming majority the BJP/NDA has therein. In the otherwise “we-all-support-GST” atmosphere, though not counting the AIADMK which staged a walkout opposing the uniform taxation regime, Moily’s comment was jarring enough to merit a response from the Prime Minister. “When I held talks, I had called Soniaji and Manmohan Singhji as they represented the two Houses of Parliament — the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha,” Modi said. It was all in a lighter vein. His theme song was that the GST bill is a “Team India bill”.