In a last-ditch effort to save the monsoon session from complete washout and push its reforms agenda, including the GST bill, the government has called a meeting of 15 parties on Monday.
Sources indicated the government was keen to strike a compromise deal but without buckling to the opposition’s demand for the ouster of scandal-hit foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
The Congress has relentlessly held up House proceedings since they began on July 21. With just nine working days to go before the session ends on August 13, the ruling dispensation is worried about key bills stuck in the logjam, especially the Goods and Services Bill. Government managers feel if the constitution amendment bill isn’t passed this session, GST rollout may be delayed by another year.
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At internal strategy meetings, NDA floor managers debated if forming a joint parliamentary committee to look into the charges against the BJP leaders could break the logjam, sources told HT. A section in the government also said at the meetings that the Centre must at least urge the opposition to allow passage of the constitution amendment bill on GST.
The CPI(M) and Congress, however, said no “concrete proposals” had come from the government so far. “If it comes out with a proposal, all opposition parties will have to collectively decide on it,” CPM’s Sitaram Yechury told HT over phone from Raigad, Maharashtra.
Setting the tone for Monday’s meeting, the two sides continued to spar on Sunday.
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Pitching for the GST bill that will allow a single national tax to be levied on all goods and services, finance minister Arun Jaitley attacked the Congress in a Facebook post, “The Congress should accept and seriously introspect, after having ruled the country for the longest time, that negativism hurts the country. Should its obstructionist tendencies inflict an economic injury on the country?”
The Congress’s Anand Sharma, however, argued it was the government that didn’t want the impasse to end. “If the parliamentary affairs minister says that we have done more work in the past one year than was done in 10 previous years, the credit goes to the Congress. We are the original reformers and helped them pass legislation like the insurance bill, coal bill and companies bill.”
The opposition also went into a huddle to chalk out strategy. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, deputy leader in the upper House Anand Sharma and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge met for an hour on Saturday. Gandhi held consultations with party lieutenants on Sunday too.
Party leaders said Gandhi’s speech at the Congress parliamentary party meeting on Monday morning would set the tone for the multi-party meeting at noon.The NDA chose not to call an all-party meeting, limiting the interaction to parties with more than eight MPs. This means parties like the RJD, DMK, PDP and LJP have been kept out. "In the last all-party meet, discussions went on for three-and-a-half hours. But it yielded no results," said a minister.