The Congress and the BJP moved their sparring from Parliament to the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit on Saturday, blaming each other for a lack of consensus on key issues and a gridlock in law-making.
Arun Jaitley, head of the opposition in the Rajya Sabha, blamed the Congress for being confrontationist ever since it came to power in 2004 and Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh retorted by hitting out at the saffron party for blocking even legislation that originated in the NDA years.
Their exchange during the 11th Hindustan Times Leadership Summit session on a “New Vision for India” illustrated why the BJP and the Congress cannot see eye-to-eye on solutions to India’s problems though they may not differ much in their prescriptions.
Jaitley argued that the problems plaguing UPA rule had less to do with the opposition blocking legislation than with the quality of governance, lack of transparency and widespread corruption.
"Our prime minister is hardly a person who can be blamed for confrontation," said Singh, wondering aloud whether the BJP was committed to what it had agreed with the Congress on major laws, a reference to occasions when the Opposition party had gone back on its word to back the government on key issues.
READ: People get the govts they deserve, says Digvijaya Singh on 'right to vote'
"The highest number of days have been lost in the Lok Sabha on petty issues raised by the Opposition," said Singh. Jaitley held that “the so-called opposition being the sole reason for delays is a myth, except in the case of FDI in retail where we differ with the government for specific reasons.”
The two parties are at loggerheads currently over a bill to prevent communal violence which the BJP thinks is targeted at Hindus and encroaches on states' powers relating to law and order.
Jaitley said the BJP could not support the government on measures that were brought for narrow political gains rather than the good of the country.
“In nine out of ten cases, bills have been cleared after unanimity in the standing committees of Parliament and later passed by the two Houses. There is not a single legislation pending in Parliament that stands in the way of the government’s inability to improve governance,” Jaitley said.
Singh for his part raised the issue of the long-pending Goods and Services Tax (GST), which was mooted during the BJP’s stint in power but blocked by the party when the UPA wanted to move ahead on it. “Unlike them, we cooperated with the NDA government in the introduction of VAT system,” he said.
Jaitley said the opposition to the GST was not on political lines but “on the basis of revenue that each state wil get when the system is introduced. We have BJP-ruled states who are for it and against it. The Centre must be able to convice the states their interests are protected. If you are confronting them because they are ruled by the opposition parties, you cannot hope to achieve consensus.”
Read: India is a model example of how stable democracy works: Condoleezza Rice
READ: Microfinance has failed in India. says Jairam Ramesh
READ: China’s behaviour smacks of unilateralism: Shyam Saran