In a new initiative, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee and BJP president Nitin Gadkari "heart-to-heart" talk over a vegetarian lunch and rossogollas, at the former's initiative on the eve of Parliament's winter session.
Mukherjee's objective was to seek the main opposition's cooperation in the passage of important legislations like the lokpal bill and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) in Parliament.
Gadkari pledged his party's support for the government "in the national interest" while reminding Mukherjee that "co-operation" was a two-way process, which must be reflected both "inside and outside" Parliament.
In a candid exchange of views, sources said, Gadkari told Mukherjee the Centre must end "discrimination" toward opposition-ruled states, stop "vindictive actions" as in the case of arrest of its leaders in the cash-for-vote scam and stop attacks by Congress leaders such as Digvijaya Singh.
Mukherjee, who was interacting with Gadkari for the first time, said the opposition must understand the seriousness of the problems confronting the government and the country.
He explained why the government could no longer delay enactment of important legislations such as the GST, insurance bill, and pension fund bill.
Agreeing with Mukherjee, Gadkari said the BJP too was seriously concerned about the country's economic situation and the state of "drift". He conveyed his party's reservation on issues such as FDI in retail.
Gadkari drew attention to other issues — power crisis, rising cost of agricultural inputs and black marketeering of fertiliser hitting farmers.
He told Mukherjee that the BJP was not opposing the government merely for the sake of opposing. On the issue of GST, Gadkari pointed out that each state had different problem with regard to the new measure.
Mukherjee told HT, "I had invited him (Gadkari) for lunch to discuss the GST bill. It is pending for a long time and the government needs BJP's support to pass this constitutional amendment bill."
On his part, Gadkari told HT, "The BJP too is concerned about the economic situation in the country and believes that, notwithstanding our political differences, we must work together for solutions to various problems. We are always for a dialogue and a good beginning has been made (by Mukherjee)."