Opposition leaders accused India Inc on Wednesday of trying to dictate Parliament’s functioning after leading industrialists pleaded with feuding lawmakers to cast aside differences and allow both Houses to run.
More than 20,000 people, led by dozens of top tycoons, have signed a petition condemning daily disruptions in the three-week monsoon session of Parliament and urging politicians to allow the passage of legislation, including the country’s biggest tax reform in decades, the goods and services tax bill.
"How can the corporates dictate the functioning of Parliament?" Janata Dal (United) leader Sharad Yadav asked in the Rajya Sabha.
"The capitalists, after 68 years of independence, are saying that Parliament should run. They must know that 125 crore Indians have chosen Parliament... They (corporates) want to run Parliament?. . . It is quite evident today that they (Narendra Modi government) came to power with support from the corporates.”
Congress leader Manish Tewari hit out at India Inc too. "Comical. Where was corporate India's concern when BJP wiped out session after session for 10 years?” he tweeted. "Rockefeller moment souring; ROPI (Return on Political Investment) floundering, now they want parliament to bow to their ditkat. Will it be a parliament of corporates?"
Leading industrialists and business leaders such as Sunil Munjal, Adi Godrej, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Rahul Bajaj, Anu Aga, Ajay Sriram and Kris Gopalakrishnan have signed the online campaign launched by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on change.org.
"Recent events have been disheartening. They have the potential of eroding popular faith in Parliament. Perpetual disruption can never be the rule. Street demonstrations against the chair of the lower House are of unprecedented scale. The lower House is without some opposition members. The upper house is perpetually adjourned," said the petition.
"The importance of uninterrupted legislative function of the Parliament can hardly be overemphasized. Important laws like the Constitution amendments in Goods and Services Tax which improves India's growth rate is held up," it adds. "GST has taken a long time in coming and has taken years of consensus building, and CII has time and again reiterated that this could significantly contribute to India's and states' growth. India has to grow in order to alleviate poverty and create jobs."
"Parliament did not get an opportunity to discuss important issues like floods, security, other economic priorities... We, therefore, urge all political parties to have a collaborative and consultative process in parliament," the petition added.
Industry has been lobbying for a single goods and services tax that will eliminate layers of central and state levies. The government succeeded in introducing the goods and services tax bill in the Rajya Sabha, but the House was adjourned for the day shortly afterwards amid protests by the Congress party.
The chances of approving the GST in the monsoon session looked slim after opposition politicians yelled slogans and the Speaker adjourned proceedings until Thursday, the last day of the session.
If the GST is not approved in this session, the government could call a special sitting of Parliament once it has ironed out differences. Otherwise, it will wait until a session late in the year, leaving little time to implement the tax by a deadline of April 2016.