War of words after GST bill stalled; Jaitley targets Sonia, Rahul

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2015 00:18 IST

The government's attempts to push through the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill in Rajya Sabha fell flat on Tuesday prompting finance minister Arun Jaitley to accuse Sonia and Rahul Gandhi of taking the 2014 election defeat badly.

"The two leaders of Congress are unable to accept the fact that someone outside the Gandhi family can also run the country," Jaitley said after protesting Congress MPs stalled proccedings.

Accusing the Congress creating obstacles and stalling economic progess, he said the government would try to get the bill passed with the help of parties supporting GST through "all correct measures politically and constitutionally".

The government's difficulties in a House where Congress has significant number of 68 members in a House of 245 came with only two days to go for the monsoon session of Parliament, which has been a virtual washout in the wake of Congress campaign against three top BJP leaders accused of corruption.

Read:Govt introduces GST bill in Rajya Sabha as Cong protests continue

No-win situation: Between govt and GST, a Congress wall

The Congress immediately hit back reminding the BJP that it too had resorted to similar disruptions when it was in the opposition.

"It is the PM's obduracy and arrogance which is responsible for the stalemate in Parliament. He can't rewrite the rule book," party leader Anand Sharma said referring to the ruling party's refusal to remove the leaders allegedly involved in corruption scams.

The BJP, which has 48 members in the House, has the support of about 120 MPs, and will have to work on a number of small parties to muster about 165 members to make up for the mandatory two-third support for a Constitution amendment Bill.

With the roll-out of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which is touted as one of the major economic reforms measures, planned for April 1, 2016, Jaitley moved the Bill for consideration and passage in the Rajya Sabha after the House adopted the Appropriation Bill without any discussion. But immediately, deputy leader of Congress Anand Sharma raised objections saying discussion on the Bill cannot be taken up as it was not discussed in Business Advisory Committee and no time has been allocated for it.

When Jaitley got up to move the Bill, Congress members trooped into the well, shouting slogans against the government.

"The real purpose is that they want to stall the growth of the country and that is why session after session, they are using one pretext or the other to stall it, Jailtley said.

Amid stormy scenes deputy chairman P J Kurien said he could not not take up a Constitution amendment bill when the House is not in order and adjourned proceedings for the day.

Later, Jaitley launched a strong attack on Congress saying the party was a liability on the economy and stood isolated on the Bill that will lead to a national GST replacing all indirect levies, boosting economic growth and cutting prices.

"GDP will be boosted. That is the economic consensus, if GST is introduced. But Congress for some reason does not want that.

"Its policies were a liability on the economy of this country, when the Congress was in the government. It continues to be a liability on the economy of this country even when it is in opposition," he told reporters.
Jaitley said the party stands isolated with almost no political group supporting its disruptionist programme.

"We on behalf of the government, along with the support of all parties who are supporting the GST, are determined to pursue this and will take all correct measures politically and constitutionally to achieve this goal," he said.

Jaitley said Congress had mooted GST in 2006 and introduced a bill on it in 2011, but failed to bring a consensus among states.

The GST will transform India into one uniform market for seamless transfer of goods and services, Jaitley said adding that it will eventually bring down prices because there will be no tax on tax.

Responding to questions, Jaitley said GST has been introduced already.

Read:Jaitley pushes GST bill ahead, test for Congress in Rajya Sabha

"Technically it did not need the introduction because Select Committee directly reports to the House so it's a formal introduction and the select committee prepares the amended Bill. So, the amended Bill, not as prepared by the government but as prepared by the select committee, is already before the Rajya Sabha."

To the objection raised by Anand Sharma in the House, Jaitley said the 'Business Advisory Committee' in the last session had kept four hours for GST.

"After that, on the advise of the Congress it went to Select Committee. Select Committee reported it back. That four hours is still valid. Congress should talk about the real issue, it should not deviate," he said, adding, "We will try now. We will try every alternative mechanism."

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