How behind-the-scenes managers helped pave the way for GST deal

  • Saubhadra Chatterji, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 03, 2016 07:40 IST
Union finance minister Arun Jaitley with M Venkaiah Naidu in New Delhi. (PTI File Photo)

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa in June, he sought her support for the Goods and Services Tax bill in “national interest”, even though her state stood to lose revenue under the new law.

Last month, urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu met Jayalalithaa in Chennai — both leaders spoke in Telugu — and the CM indicated her party will not stand in the way of the GST bill.

For the past one year, NDA managers like Naidu and finance minister Arun Jaitley have silently worked behind the scenes to build a political consensus — elusive for the past five years — to ensure that the GST bill sees the light of the day.

After he met Jayalalithaa, Modi told Naidu and Jaitley to contact leaders of 29 political parties and the ten nominated members individually.

When Naidu met Congress president Sonia Gandhi last year at her residence, she complained that Opposition parties were not getting enough time to speak in the House. Naidu, then in-charge of parliamentary affairs, dished out statistics to show how the Opposition bench had gotten more time than what it had during the first UPA regime.

Read | Nine years later, GST bill ready to become reality; to be tabled in RS today

After his meeting with Gandhi, Naidu quickly followed it up with meetings with Congress leaders like Mallikarjun Kharge, Jyotiraditya Scindia, K V Thomas and Veerappa Moily.

“There is a good monsoon and there is a good monsoon session. India will make history on Wednesday when the GST bill is passed in Rajya Sabha,” Naidu told HT.

When CPI(M) and Samajwadi Party felt they were left out in these consultations, senior government managers sat with Sitaram Yechury (CPIM) and Ramgopal Yadav (SP).

Meanwhile, in Jaitley’s meetings with state finance ministers, Congress-ruled states urged him to roll-out the GST regime quickly.

NDA ministers even urged business chambers, when their leaders came to meet them, to talk to Opposition parties to push GST. Last month, the government’s calculations showed it had enough numbers to pass the legislation in Rajya Sabha but waited for the Congress to come on board.

Read | After big breakthrough, GST nitty-gritties might take time

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