Congress awaits reply on GST demands, govt steps up talks with Oppn

  • Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 14, 2016 13:22 IST
Finance minister Arun Jaitley with West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee during Bengal Global Business Summit in Kolkata on Friday. Souces said the two discussed over the GST bill during this meeting. (PTI)

The Centre has stepped up its back channel negotiations with the Opposition parties to push the long-pending Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill in the budget session of Parliament.

The NDA managers have already spoken to parties like AIADMK, Trinamool and Biju Janata Dal apart from holding the highly-publicised meeting with the Congress.

Sources in the government told HT that finance minister Arun Jaitley had reached out to Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee during his recent visit to Kolkata. In the last three months, many Union ministers had also rushed to meet Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. While the discussions were primarily on the flood situation in the state, sources did not rule out possibilities of talks on the GST bill during those meetings.

The Congress, on Tuesday, however, made it clear that the government is yet to give a formal, written reply to their key demands. “The government has not replied to us. So, for us, the stalemate continues as far as the GST is concerned,” former UPA minister Jairam Ramesh told HT.

Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu had met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former PM Manmohan Singh last Friday to break the logjam. While Gandhi maintained that she will get back after talking to party colleagues, Naidu had announced the government’s readiness to advance the budget session if the Opposition parties agree to pass the GST bill, the real estate bill and other key legislative agenda.

Sources added that the tentative calendar for the session is from February 23 to March 22 and then the two Houses would reassemble from April 25. Sources, however, added that the government is also keeping its plan B ready — to wrap up the budget session in March itself in case the roadblock continues on the passage of key bills.

“In 2011, the UPA government had scrapped the second leg of the session as assembly elections were due in April. This year too, we have the same option as elections in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal and Assam are scheduled in April-May, coinciding with the second leg of the budget session,” said a senior minister.

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