NEW DELHI: Scuttling of the Government’s move to get the Good and Service Taxes (GST) Bill passed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday by a protesting Congress had the two sides drawn in a verbal duel thereafter.
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Angry Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the grand old party leadership -- Sonia and Rahul Gandhi-- of following a “self-destructive”, “anti-growth” trajectory, ruinous for Parliament and the country.
The latter hit right back with the charge that it was the “ego” and the prevailing “authoritarian” instincts that was stopping the government from accepting reasoned improvement on the GST bill suggested by it.
“We are not against GST Bill, but against the current Bill which will increase taxation burden, has no redressal mechanism and keeps key revenue generating items, like alcohol, tobacco, petro products, outside its purview,” Congress senior spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi said.
The Congress though blocked the bill from being taken up for consideration in the Upper House on a specious technical ground that it was neither discussed nor was time allotted for it by the Business Advisory Committee. (BAC is where legislation business for the week is finalised.)
Since a constitutional amendment Bill required the House to be in order, the Chair adjourned without the GST being moved, citing pandemonium, mostly created by the Congress sloganeering in the well of the House and the Left opposition. As a bite-for-bite battle ensued, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge matched the Government angst with a counter attack.
His charge was, the government was “not showing serious intent of passing any legislation or having any discussions. It’s merely stonewalling every demand of the Opposition.” A subtle climb-down by the Congress was evident though. The party which till Monday was forcefully asserting that it would not allow any discussion without External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s resignation, on Tuesday said that they opposed discussion on the Lalit Modi/IPL scam in the Lok Sabha, precisely because Speaker Sumitra Mahajan refused to allow an adjournment motion requiring voting. “They’ve a majority, so what is their fear? We gave adjournment motion notice for three weeks running, it’s not accepted. BJP MP gives notice (for discussion of IPL scam) under Rule 193, it is immediately accepted,” Kharge charged. But the shift of focus from Swaraj to GST could hardly be missed.
Speaking in the same vein, Singhvi claimed the government was “trying to pass blame of a poorly run economy on to GST” and its non-passage. Reeling out statistics on economic parameters of corresponding years, he added the “slowdown of the economy cannot be kept under wraps for too long.”
Jaitley, who had given out a April 1, 2016, roll-out plan for GST and was understandably upset said, “It will be passed, the dispute is over the timing.” He, however, could not keep from sarcastically adding that “the Congress was using one pretext or the other to stall GST. That is why they are using External Affairs Minister.”
The party simply “does not want the economy to grow” under NDA Government, the minister said.
PM Blasts Congress, Hails Mulayam
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday hit out at the Congress for disrupting Parliament repeatedly saying they were trying to stall the growth of the country. At the BJP Parliamentary Party meeting Modi also thanked SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav for pressing for the smooth running of the House.