Critical Reform GST at Stake, Congress Unmoved: 10 Parliament Developments
The Congress wants Parliament to suspend all other business to urgently address how and why Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj helped tainted cricket tycoon Lalit Modi get travel papers from the UK last year. The party moved an adjournment notice in the Lok Sabha, seeking an immediate discussion on the controversy.
The government’s focus is on pushing through a massive reform – the Goods and Services Tax (GST) – that will enable one national sales tax to replace a matrix of existing levies.
The Lok Sabha has already cleared the proposal – the government is in a huge majority there. In the Upper House or Rajya Sabha, however, the government and its allies do not have the numbers to manage the passage of the bill.
The PM had a lunch meeting recently with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa to win her support. She has 11 members in the Rajya Sabha.
The government wants the new tax to be introduced from April 1 next year. That deadline is in jeopardy unless the reform clears Parliament before this session ends.
The government is also wooing parties like the Trinamool Congress, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (United) and the Biju Janata Dal, all of which are said to favour the bill since GST is expected to benefit states where they are in power, where manufacturing is limited but consumption is high.
By blocking Parliament, the Congress is exposing its willingness to hurt the economy, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has charged. At a meeting of BJP lawmakers today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi attacked the Congress saying, “Some people are misusing Parliament to stop the pace of country’s growth.”
The Congress says as Foreign Minister, Mrs Swaraj furtively chose to help Lalit Modi by informing UK officials that relations with India would not be affected if the billionaire were allowed last year to travel with his wife, a cancer patient, to Portugal.
Mrs Swaraj says her “humanitarian” gesture was motivated by consideration for Mr Modi’s wife. Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi says the fact that it was the media and not the minister who revealed her aid proves that she was aware of her wrongdoing.
Yesterday, the Congress received a sharp remonstrance from long-term ally Mulayam Singh Yadav, who warned “enough is enough” and said the protests must end so that discussions in Parliament can begin.