BJP trains guns on Congress, Jaitley rejects its terms on GST

Last Updated 14 August 2015, 13:25 IST

Top BJP ministers and leaders today fanned out to states and attacked the Congress for the washout of the monsoon session of Parliament where the GST bill was stalled even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley dismissed as an "afterthought" the conditions set by Congress for supporting the measure.

"All these three pre-conditions are an afterthought," he told a press conference when he was asked about the conditions set by the Congress yesterday for breaking the logjam over the Constitution amendment that will bring in a uniform Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the country.

Former finance minister P Chidambaram had yesterday said if the government addresses three of its fundamental concerns-- maximum GST rate should not cross 18 per cent, no additional one per cent tax and setting up of a grievance redress mechanism--then the Congress could consider supporting its passage.

Following up on the NDA decision yesterday, the BJP bigwigs targeted Congress President and Vice President Rahul Gandhi for the paralysis of Parliament and said first family of the party has not reconciled to being out of power.

Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in Chennai she was "very optimistic" of the passage of the GST while Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said it will be "definitely" passed because government enjoyed a majority in Rajya Sabha.

However, in Ahmedabad Power Minister Piyush Goyal felt there were "less possibilities" of the bill being passed by April, 2016 but government would work out alternative ways to ensure people get its benefits.

In Delhi, Jaitley said, "All these three decisions (on issues raked up by Chidambaram) are unanimous decisions of all the states to which the congress party states are privy. So its clear that these three pre conditions are an after thought.

"Well I don't think it is part of prudent politics for any party to put pre-conditions, particularly on a matter which involves   fiscal relationship between the centre and the states," he said.
Jaitley said two conditions are contrary to what was his own stand   when Chidambaram was finance minister. The third condition of up to one percent one per cent additional tax was a compromise between the centre and the states.

However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu sounded conciliatory when he appealed to all parties, particularly Congress and the Left, to help take forward the legislation as any delay would hurt the national interests.

"The need of the hour is to bury the immediate and distant past. The need of the hour is also to end the politics of revenge and tit for tat," Naidu told reporters in Bengaluru.
Naidu said the government would talk to all parties and "explore how quickly we can do it."

He said there were some suggestions to reconvene Parliament at the earliest and take forward the GST Bill. "It is necessary to bring into force the GST by April next year. Any delay would only hurt our national interests."

"I sincerely appeal to all concerned not to allow a repeat of the Monsoon session. Let us not let the people down," he said, as he struck a note of conciliation to give a push to one of the government's big bang reforms.

To a question if a special session would be called, he said "we have not taken any decision. We will talk to all parties."

At the same time, Naidu also blamed  the Congress for the session washout and said it had clearly lost the plot and "got it wrong and as a result painted itself into a corner."
He said as Parliamentary Affairs Minister, he strongly felt that time has come to revisit the Rules of Business of legislatures to enable their effective functioning.

"The intention is not to discipline the MPs and MLAs but to allow the aspirations of the people to be properly addressed.

"There is a need for a wider public debate if persistent violators of the dignity and decorum of legislatures should be properly punished or not," he said.

Telecom Minister Ravishankar Prasad attacked  Rahul Gandhi after his criticism of the Centre over the one-rank- one-pension issue for ex-servicemen, saying "spit and run" and "hit and run" were two principles of his politics and attempts to "package and repackage" him by his party will fail.

He questioned Rahul's leadership credentials, claiming that many party leaders were "disgusted with the way he is leading" Congress. Sonia Gandhi foisted him on the country after "low voice of protests" against making him the party president, he claimed.
The Gandhi family, Prasad alleged, believes that it has a divine right to be permanent occupant of 7 RCR, the Prime Minister's official residence, or install somebody there on its behalf.

Responding Congress' charge that it was BJP government's arrogance which caused the virtual washout of the monsoon session, he said the principal source of all problem was that it was unable to reconcile to be in the opposition.

"I will ask Ghulam Nabi Azad and Mallikarjun Kharge to have patience as they have to sit in opposition for a long time," he said, reacting to the two Congress leaders attack on the government at a press conference.

He also condemned Congress' criticism of Speaker Sumitra Mahjana, saying she was a veteran parliament who has been "neutral" in role.

BJP Spokesman and MP M J Akbar accused the Congress of adopting a "cynical ploy" of disrupting the session and said the party was only interested in the well being of the "family" and not in the interest of country's growth.

The BJP held over 28 press conferences across the country to "expose" the opposition party for stalling Parliament "without a cause".
Ministers Manohar Parrikar, JP Nadda and Ananth Kumar were among the others who hit out at the top Congress brass, a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi set the tone for the NDA's belligerence against Congress.

The real reason behind Congress disrupting Parliament was that it wanted to block GST Bill and the country's economic growth, Parrikar charged in Dehradun.

Javadekar likened the Congress's rule to the British regime, alleging the party had a "notion" that it will "never" get out of power but, with time, the party lost power and became "irrelevant".

Party spokesperson Nalin Kohli said in Pune that by stalling Parliament over a non-issue like the Lalit Modi row, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi had made himself, and not the GST Bill and other important issues, central to the interests of India.

Taking a dig at Rahul, he said it was a sad state of affairs that senior leaders with greater intelligence than him like Ghulam Nabi Azad and P Chidambaram were forced to defend him.

The Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana chief ministers also addressed media to attack Congress, saying it was trying hurt economic growth by disrupting Parliament.

More press conferences will be held by NDA leaders, including ministers, in the coming days as the ruling alliance seeks to capitalise on the virtual wash-out of Parliament's Monsoon session because it believes that there is a "popular anger" against it.

NDA has also planned to carry out intense campaign in all 44 constituencies of Congress and nine of the Left parties which, it said, were the "principal actors" in the disruption.
At a meeting of NDA MPs, Modi had yesterday asked them to fan out across the country to expose the Congress, equating the disruption with the Emergency, when Congress wanted power to be concentrated in one family.

"We accept this undemocratic challenge by Congress and will take it to the people. Our people will go to every nook and corner to expose the Congress, which is trying to stop the growth of the country," he had said.

(Published 14 August 2015, 13:02 IST)

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