Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu on Thursday drove down to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi at her residence, intensifying the BJP-led government’s efforts to secure the main opposition party’s support for passage of the long-pending GST bill.
Naidu also met former prime minister Manmohan Singh as part of the confidence-building exercise.
The ambitious tax reform bill – which envisages a uniform tax structure across the states -- is struck in the Rajya Sabha due to continued opposition of the Congress and some other parties. The ruling alliance is in a minority in the upper House.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi too had called on Gandhi -- their first ever meeting -- last year to hammer out a deal on the GST bill. However, the talks did not yield any result.
The Congress, however, said that the government should get serious about the GST and not limit itself to just the “optics of meetings.”
“The government is using optics of meetings and is not serious about GST,” senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal said after Naidu’s twin meetings.
Naidu conveyed to the Opposition party that the government is ready to consider the opposition’s party’s two key demands on abolishing the 1% proposed entry tax and revamping the grievance redressal mechanism, sources said. The third demand—a cap on the GST rates at 18%-- was not acceptable to the government.
The government failed to push the 122ndConstitution amendment to the GST bill in the last winter session that was marred by protests as the Congress remained non-committal and accused the government of not formally responding to its three key demands.
“The Congress president assured to get back after holding internal discussion with her party leaders on the issues,” Naidu said after meeting Gandhi.
In the meeting, Naidu maintained that the government may even advance the Budget session if the principal opposition party and other parties agreed. The session is currently scheduled from the third week of February.
BJP sources said Naidu also sought the Congress’ support on the Real Estate Bill, that aims to regulate the booming real estate sector.
Sibal, however, maintained that his party was still waiting for a written response from the government on its demands.