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Parliament logjam: Sonia targets PM; Rajya Sabha adjourned till noon

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The government has convened a meeting of major parties on Monday to discuss ways to end the stalemate in Parliament in an attempt to save the rest of the monsoon session and push its key reforms.

Before that, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding a meet with senior ministers in Parliament to discuss strategy and likelihood of a statement by the PM in the House to break the logjam, reports said. After which a proposal to carry on discussions in Parliament will be brought forward at the meeting of the 15 parties at 12pm.

“Congress must understand they are not only stalling Parliament proceedings but are creating hindrance in the progress of the nation,” said minister of state for parliamentary affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Sources said the government was keen to strike a compromise deal but without buckling to the opposition’s demand for the ouster of scandal-hit foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Meanwhile, Congress chief Sonia Gandhi lashed out at the prime minister over his silence, saying that the champion of ‘mann ki baat’ retreats to ‘maun vrat’ whenever there is a scandal involving his colleagues.

“He has been conspicuous by his deafening silence on blatant transgressions by his EAM (Sushma Swaraj) and two of his CMs,” said Gandhi at the meeting of Congress parliamentary party.

She said the PM has turned out to be a master repackager, a skillful salesman, a sharp headline grabber and a clever news manager.

“There will be no productive discussions and no meaningful proceedings as long as those responsible for gross wrong-doings remain in office,” she added.

Rajya Sabha was also adjourned till noon after Congress uproar over Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues.

The NDA chose not to call an all-party meeting, limiting the interaction to parties with more than eight MPs. This means parties like the RJD, DMK, PDP and LJP have been kept out.

“In the last all-party meet, discussions went on for three-and-a-half hours. But it yielded no results,” said a minister.

The monsoon session has already witnessed four all-party meetings but the impasse continues. With just nine working days to go before the session ends on August 13, the ruling dispensation is worried about key bills stuck in the logjam, especially the Goods and Services Bill. Government managers feel if the constitution amendment bill is not passed this session, GST rollout may be delayed by another year.

The Congress, which has relentlessly held up House proceedings since they began on July 21, also plans to hold a meeting of its parliamentary party hours ahead of the all-party meet. The meeting will be addressed by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

Party leaders said Gandhi’s speech at the Congress parliamentary party meeting would set the tone for the multi-party meeting later.

At internal strategy meetings, NDA floor managers debated if forming a joint parliamentary committee to look into the charges against the BJP leaders could break the logjam, sources told HT. A section in the government also said at the meetings that the Centre must at least urge the opposition to allow passage of the constitution amendment bill on GST.

The CPI(M) and Congress, however, said no “concrete proposals” had come from the government so far.

“If it comes out with a proposal, all opposition parties will have to collectively decide on it,” CPM’s Sitaram Yechury told HT over phone from Raigad, Maharashtra.

The government and Congress engaged in a verbal clash on Sunday, with the ruling side alleging “obstructionism” on part of the opposition which in turn blamed Modi’s “arrogance” for the Parliament logjam.

With half of the monsoon session virtually washed out, the government asked Congress to introspect and said it can have “honourable exit” by having a debate on the row surrounding Swaraj and Lalit Modi.

Pitching for the GST bill that will allow a single national tax to be levied on all goods and services, finance minister Arun Jaitley attacked the Congress in a Facebook post, “The Congress should accept and seriously introspect, after having ruled the country for the longest time, that negativism hurts the country. Should its obstructionist tendencies inflict an economic injury on the country?”

Union minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who addressed a press conference at BJP headquarters, termed Congress as “confused” and claimed that it has put itself in an “untenable position” and “pushed itself against the wall” by demanding resignations of Swaraj, Raje and Chauhan.

The Congress’ Anand Sharma, however, argued it was the government that did not want the impasse to end.

“If the parliamentary affairs minister says that we have done more work in the past one year than was done in 10 previous years, the credit goes to the Congress. We are the original reformers and helped them pass legislation like the insurance bill, coal bill and companies bill.”

The opposition also went into a huddle to chalk out strategy. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, deputy leader in the upper House Anand Sharma and the party’s Lok Sabha leader Mallikarjun Kharge met for an hour on Saturday. Gandhi held consultations with party lieutenants on Sunday too.

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