Cong disrupting House proceedings: Govt

Cong disrupting House proceedings: Govt

Grand old party hits back with barbs at prime minister

Cong disrupting House proceedings: Govt

Senior ministers in the Narendra Modi government on Sunday accused the Congress of adopting an “obstructionist attitude” to block key reforms, even as the government tries to break the logjam in Parliament.

While Finance Minister Arun Jaitley accused the Congress of playing a “negative role” in Parliament, Commerce minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the Congress did not want discussion and was resorting to obstruction as it was scared the prime minister would “expose” them on the floor of the House.

Senior Congress leader Anand Sharma said it was abundantly clear by these ministers' “unwarranted, uncharitable and provocative statements” that the government was “neither serious nor sincere” in breaking the stalemate for Parliament to function. “The blame of non-functioning of Parliament lies squarely with the prime minister for his arrogance and obduracy,” he said.

The verbal clash set the tone of an all-party meeting convened by the government on Monday to find ways to end the logjam. Before this, the Congress will discuss its strategy at a Congress Parliamentary Party meeting, to be presided over by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Sitharaman said Sonia would have to take the blame, if the Monsoon session of Parliament was completely washed out.  Jaitley attacked the Congress over GST Bill, saying the points of dissent on the bill raised by the Opposition party now were never supported by the UPA’s finance ministers Pranab Mukherjee and P Chidambaram.

Jaitley pointed out that the bill was proposed by the erstwhile UPA government in the 2006-07 Budget and that it had accepted the changes suggested by the Empowered Committee and the Standing Committee.   “The present government has not made any significant modification to the bill, except bringing consensus between manufacturing and consuming states. The Congress-ruled states have consistently supported the proposal. Is it only out of an obstructionist attitude that the Congress has adopted a negative role?” he said in an article.

Jaitley highlighted how the changes in the GST Bill proposed by the Congress would undermine it, saying: “The Congress and its leaders may be upset with the government for political reasons. They may be upset with the electorate for the 2014 verdict. The party should accept, after having ruled the country for the longest period, that negativism hurts the country.”

He added that the Congress' proposal to increase states' voting representation in the GST Council from two-thirds to three-fourths would effectively reduce the Centre’s voting power. As a result, the states might deplete Central revenues “almost completely”. “This is contrary to the decision Chidambaram specifically took on April 30, 2013,” he said.  

Jaitley also rejected the Congress' proposal that electricity, tobacco products and alcohol for human consumption should be given the same treatment as petroleum in the GST Bill, saying no UPA finance minister mooted this proposal. 

Sitharaman, meanwhile, described Congress as “confused”, and sought to drive a wedge into the Opposition's unity, saying the party had pushed itself against the wall by demanding the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan. The only “honourable exit” for the Congress was a debate on the issues in Parliament, she added.

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