The Congress and BJP continued to trade barbs over the GST bill on Friday with the Congress insisting on amending the proposed legislation further but finance minister Arun Jaitley refused to give in, saying setting pre-conditions for any negotiations was not “prudent politics”.
The government has kept open the option of reconvening Parliament’s monsoon session to try and pass the country’s biggest tax reform, hoping to get the Congress on board.
“I do not think it is part of prudent politics for any party to put pre-conditions, particularly on a matter which involves a fiscal relationship between the Centre and the states,” Jaitley said.
Government sources said the fate of the session depended on whether the BJP managed to convince the Congress. “If the Congress remains pliable, we may even go for a short session to pass a few more bills like the Real Estate bill and the Negotiable Instruments Act,” said a source.
Signs of dissent within the Congress over the GST appeared on Friday when former Punjab CM Amarinder Singh expressed displeasure over the delay in the passage of the bill.
“Whatever the reasons and circumstances have been during the monsoon session, the GST should have been allowed to be introduced in Parliament to facilitate the way for its eventual passage,” he said, adding the bill was crucial for India’s economic growth.
Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu struck a placatory note indicating that fresh negotiations with the Opposition parties would soon begin. “The need of the hour is to bury the immediate and distant past. The need of the hour is also to end the politics of revenge and tit for tat,” Naidu said in Bengaluru.
The leader of the Opposition, Ghulam Nabi Azad, however, maintained they had yet to hear anything formally on the session for a GST bill. “We have read it in newspapers only. Courtesy demands, democracy demands that opposition should be taken into confidence if the government has any such plans. When it is officially announced, we will take a call,” he said.
The Congress also reiterated it was the original “author and architect” of the GST bill, indicating that the principal opposition party was not opposed to reforms. “When we were in power, we never made misuse of power to accuse the BJP of attempting to scuttle growth by opposing GST. Now media and industry are being arm-twisted, which is a fascist tendency,” Azad added.