With no visible end to Congress-led protests in the Rajya Sabha in sight, finance minister Arun Jaitley said on Monday the ongoing Parliament session may end in a washout. The comment came after Jaitley and parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu failed to reach a consensus with senior Congress leaders on the goods and services tax (GST) issue.
“The last Session of the Parliament did not function. The current Session of the Parliament is also threatened with a wash out. The reasons for the wash out of the current Session keep changing by the hour,” Jaitley wrote in a social media post where he also invoked India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru to remind the Congress of the responsibilities of parliamentarians in lawmaking and smooth functioning of the House.
This year’s monsoon session was a near-washout as the Congress-led Opposition demanded action against three BJP CMs and foreign minister Sushma Swaraj over alleged scams.
Quoting from a 1957 speech in Parliament by Nehru, Jaitley said those who claim the legacy of “Pandit ji” must ask themselves what kind of history they are making.
Saying that Nehru’s speech was a must read for “all of us”, Jaitley reproduced an “important paragraph” where the former prime minister said, “Here, we have sat in this Parliament, the sovereign authority of India, responsible for the governance of India. Surely, there can be no higher responsibility or greater privilege than to be a member of this sovereign body which is responsible for the fate of the vast number of human beings who live in this country.”
In the meeting on the GST bill, the government is said to have told Congress leaders that it is ready to accept the Opposition party’s demand on revamping the grievance redress mechanism. Doing away with the proposed GST council where the states enjoy two-thirds majority and the Centre has one-third share, the government is willing to give three-fourths to the states, sources said.
The government flatly refused to put an 18% cap on the GST rate in the 122nd Constitution amendment bill. Reacting to the Congress demand to scrap the addditional 1% entry tax, the government said in the meeting that it has no problem in meeting the demand but it has to take the states into confidence.
The Congress, represented by Ghulam Nabi Azad, Jyotiraditya Scindia and Anand Sharma, remained non-committal. In a bid to buy more time, Azad said as the party’s Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge was not present, the Congress could not spell out its final decision.
The two sides would meet again on Tuesday, Naidu told HT.
Jaitley, however, said in his social media post that “the nation was waiting for the Parliament to discuss public issues, to legislate and approve a historic Constitution Amendment enabling the GST”.
He added, “All this is being indefinitely delayed. The question we need to ask ourselves is, are we being fair to ourselves and this country?”
In the post titled “Pt Nehru and Parliament”, Jaitley further quoted the former PM as saying, “All of us, if not always, at any rate from time to time, must have felt this high sense of responsibility and destiny to which we had been called. Whether we were worthy of it or not is another matter. We have functioned, therefore, during these five years not only on the edge of history but sometimes plunging into the processes of making history.”
Taking a dig at the Congress over frequent disruptions in the Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said, “Those who claim the legacy of Pandit ji must ask themselves the question, what kind of history are they making.”