An all-party meeting called by the Narendra Modi government on Monday failed to break the parliamentary logjam, with the Congress and the NDA government reiterating their stated positions on resignations over tainted former IPL chief Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues.
While the Congress demanded the resignations of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and chief ministers of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, the government ruled out opposition's demand.
Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said the all-party meeting was convened to break the logjam, but the Congress continued to stick to its demand for the resignations.
"The Congress stuck to its demand of 'first resignations and then only the house will run'. However, other parties are of the view that the house should function and there should be debates and discussions on a lot of issues, from regional to national," Naidu said.
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said he was happy that the government called the meeting, but said that "unfortunately, it wants to run the house on its own terms and conditions".
"This is not how a democracy functions. The opposition also wants the logjam to end, but our demand is clear cut - first resignations, then business," Azad said.
Earlier during the day, Swaraj rejected the opposition’s allegations that she helped Lalit Modi’s efforts to obtain British travel documents.
Speaking in the Rajya Sabha amid noisy protests by opposition lawmakers, Swaraj said: “I never requested the British government for travel documents for Lalit Modi.”
She added she had not spoken to any government on behalf of Lalit Modi but her comments did not satisfy the opposition, which continued with its protests. The Rajya Sabha was subsequently adjourned till 2pm.
“This issue about me is being raised for the past two weeks. I informed the House…that I am ready for a discussion. For the last seven days, I am sitting here every day just so that the discussion may start," Swaraj said.
“But they don't start the discussion, they just create a ruckus. The facts this notice is based on are baseless and untrue...”
The Congress said it will make no compromise on its demand for the resignation of Swaraj, Raje and Chouhan.
The opposition has accused Raje of backing Modi’s immigration appeal to British authorities. It wants Chouhan to quit over the Vyapam recruitment and admissions scam.
Congress chief Sonia Gandhi stepped up the attack on PM Modi, saying the “Mann ki Baat man appears to retreat into a ‘maun vrat’ whenever there is a scandal involving his colleagues".
Modi has been conspicuous by his “deafening silence on blatant transgressions” by Swaraj, Raje and Chouhan, Gandhi said. "(There will be) no productive discussions, no meaningful proceedings as long as those responsible for gross wrong-doings remain in office," she was quoted as saying at a meeting of Congress MPs.
"Parliamentary majority does not give anyone a license to escape accountability...We are not being aggressive just to match BJP’s aggression of the past, we are forced to take our position because of the government’s brazen attitude,” she added.
The BJP has said it is prepared for a discussion on the issue in Parliament but its leaders and ministers will not resign.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi will only intervene when Parliament agrees to discuss contentious issues, ANI quoted its sources as saying. The debate must first start and only then will Modi speak, the sources said.
The government convened a meeting of 15 major political parties on Monday to discuss ways to end the stalemate in Parliament in an attempt to salvage the rest of the monsoon session and push its key reforms.
"Congress must understand they are not only stalling Parliament proceedings but are creating hindrance in the progress of the nation," said minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
The monsoon session has already witnessed four all-party meetings but the impasse continued. With just nine working days to go before the session ends on August 13, the government is worried about key bills stuck in the logjam, especially the Goods and Services Tax bill.
Government managers feel if the constitutional amendment bill is not passed in this session, the rollout of may be delayed by another year.
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?"
Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, addressing a news conference, descried the Congress as "confused" and claimed it has put itself in an "untenable position" and "pushed itself against the wall" by demanding the resignations of Swaraj, Raje and Chauhan.
Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma, however, argued it was the government that did not 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," he said.
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