Govt introduces GST bill in Rajya Sabha as Cong protests continue
The government succeeded on Tuesday in introducing the goods and services tax (GST) bill in Rajya Sabha, but the House was adjourned for the day shortly afterwards amid protests by the Congress party.Updated: Aug 11, 2015 18:06 IST
Finance minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday came down heavily on the Gandhi family, saying it has not been able to accept the fact that someone else can also rule the country as the government efforts to push for the GST bill did not take off over Congress' refusal to allow a discussion in Rajya Sabha.
"Unfortunately, the Congress is in a self-destruct mode. But in the process it wants not only to disrupt India's Parliament but also create obstacles in the path of national growth," the finance minister told reporters outside Parliament.
He said the policies of the Congress were a liability on the economy of this country when it was in power and now it continues to be same when it is in the opposition.
"It stands today isolated with almost no political party supporting its disruptionist program," he said.
"We appeal to the Congress party to see reason and come on a path of cooperation particularly in relation to policies they themselves at one stage proclaimed."
He accused the Congress party of reneging on its promise on GST.
"The Congress mooted the proposal in 2006 and introduced GST in 2011, they failed to bring a consensus. In less than a year, Prime Minister Modi's NDA brought about a consensus," he said.
He enlisted the ways in which the tax reform will help the Indian economy and said GST with its many special features and advantages will be able to create a uniform market in the country.
"It will eliminate corruption, eliminate harassment to the entire trading community and will be to the advantage of consuming states. There will be a seamless transfer of goods and services across the country which will help bring down prices because there will be no tax on tax."
The government succeeded in introducing the goods and services tax bill in Rajya Sabha, but the House was adjourned for the day shortly afterwards amid protests by the Congress party.
As Congress raised strong objection to the listing of the GST bill, saying it was not cleared by business advisory committee and no time was allocated for the constitutional amendment bill, finance minister Arun Jaitley accused it of opposing the reform just to stall the country's development.
As the uproar continued, the House was adjourned till Tuesday.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached out to non-Congress opposition parties that have tried to bring an end to the ongoing impasse in Parliament and thanked Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, who has distanced himself from the Congress' stand of not allowing the House to function.
"Some people are misusing Parliament to stop the pace of the country's growth," Modi said in a thinly veiled reference to the Congress at a weekly meeting of the BJP parliamentary party.
On Monday, the government saw a light in the tunnel with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav telling the Congress in Lok Sabha that his party wants the House to function and will not back it if it continues to be adamant. At a meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, Yadav told Congress leaders to spell out their demand and end the matter through debate.
The Congress has not let Parliament function, demanding the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi get UK travel documents. The Congress also wants the ouster of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the multi-crore Vyapam scandal.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi has reportedly told her party MPs to toughen their stand against the government and both Houses of Parliament saw repeated adjournments with a complete washout of the monsoon session inevitable as only two days are left for Parliament.
Tuesday's proceedings were marked by raucous sloganeering from the opposition, and was equally countered by the treasury bench.
Rajya Sabha conducted business for some time when it took up some Zero Hour notices. But the order did not last for long, and the question hour was adjourned because of disruptions.
When the house met at 11am, papers were laid and Biju Janata Dal member Anubhav Mohanty said he wanted to raise a point of order. He said his rights as a member of the House were being violated because of repeated disruptions.
"There are many important issues to be raised. I am not able to use my rights as a member because of disruptions," said Mohanty.
Deputy chairperson PJ Kurien then allowed Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Sanjiv Kumar to raise the issue of a stampede at a temple in Deoghar.
From the government's side, Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said: "The incident is unfortunate... A committee has been formed under the home secretary. The home minister has also asked the home secretary if forces are needed."
Samajwadi Party leader Naresh Agarwal expressed concern that MPs were being shown in a poor light because of subsidised food at the parliament canteen. "Planned attempts are being made to destroy the image of the members. It is being shown as if we are just eating subsidised food here," he said.
He was joined by Congress' Ghulam Nabi Azad who said it was a serious issue.
Kurien then allowed a few more members to speak and around 11.40am adjourned the House saying there were no more Zero Hour notices. When the House met at 12pm, chairperson Hamid Ansari congratulated the members for "partial return of normalcy", but it did not last long.
"I congratulate partial return of normalcy, I hope it continues in question hour as well," Ansari said.
Congress members then trooped near Ansari's podium with placards and raised slogans against the government. Amid the din, Ansari first adjourned the house till 12.30pm and then till 2pm.
The government has termed the GST rollout very crucial for the economy of the country, but the Congress and the Left have refused to reciprocate until their demands were met.
The GST bill has already been approved by Lok Sabha and was referred to a Rajya Sabha Select Committee in the last session. The panel has given its report endorsing majority of the provisions, while suggesting changes to compensate the states fully for five years for any revenue loss for the GST rollout and definition of supply for the purpose of states levying additional 1% tax.
Indirect tax reform GST proposes to create a uniform tax rate across the country by subsuming excise, service tax and other local levies. If implemented GST bill can boost India's GDP by 1-2%.
It is now awaiting a nod of Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA does not have a majority, and as a constitutional amendment bill, GST needs the support of two-thirds of the House. With the Congress repeatedly disrupting proceedings in Parliament and only three days before the monsoon session ends, the government is desperate to see it pass muster.
While some regional parties in the opposition - the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal(United) and the Biju Janata Dal - are in favour of the bill, the Congress, the Left and the AIADMK had submitted dissent notes on the report of the committee which was tabled in Parliament last month.
PM Modi recently met Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and sought her support assuring her that there will be amendments to make the bill acceptable to her party, which has at least 10 lawmakers in the Upper House.
The ruling BJP accused the Congress of adopting a "hit and run policy" by not allowing the government to speak on the allegations it was raising in the House, while finance minister Jaitley blamed the opposition party's top two leaders for the impasse.