The NDA government on Thursday sought rapprochement with the principal opposition party as parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu drove down to 10, Janpath to meet Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to get their support for the crucial GST and real estate bills.
Within hours of the meeting though the two parties were trading barbs, with senior Congress leader Kapil Sibal dismissing Naidu’s outreach as “optics” and BJP spokesperson Shrikant Sharma accusing the Congress of not being serious about the goods and services tax or the development of the country.
Sibal said the BJP was not ready for any compromise with the opposition party on the GST issue after the RSS and affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch red-flagged the reform measure.
“What proposal? There is no proposal from the government side. If he had to accept our demands why would finance minister Arun Jaitley say that shrinking Congress strength in Rajya Sabha will make GST happen,” said Sibal. “This is all optics. Naidu came and met Sonia Gandhi. They have to show all this.”
The government failed to push through a constitutional amendment to enable the rollout of the GST in the Parliament’s winter session that was marred by protests as the Congress remained non-committal and accused the BJP-led centre of not formally responding to its three key demands.
“The Congress president assured to get back after holding an internal discussion with her party leaders on the issues,” Naidu said after meeting Sonia Gandhi.
He said the government may even advance the budget session of Parliament if the principal opposition party and others agree.
In November, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Gandhi at his 7, RCR residence to hammer out a deal on the GST issue but the talks did not yield any result.
Sibal said on Thursday his party was still waiting for a written response from the government on its demands.
Sources said Naidu conveyed to the Congress that the Centre was ready to consider two of these issues—to abolish a proposed 1% entry tax and revamp the grievance redress mechanism. A third demand—to cap on the GST rates at 18%-- is not acceptable to the government.
BJP sources said Naidu also asked for the Congress’ support on the real estate bill that aims to regulate the booming sector.