Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday reached out to the opposition on the eve of the Monsoon Session of Parliament to seek its cooperation over the long-pending GST bill observing that the issue was not about which government would get the “credit” even as the Congress offered no assurance, saying it will support bills based on “merit”.
He also urged all the political parties to keep national interest above all considerations and also welcomed suggestions for extending the sittings of parliament.
“Important Bills, including the GST Bill, are to be taken up during the Monsoon Session beginning Monday and I hope that there would be meaningful discussions and outcomes during the session,” Modi said at an all-party meeting convened by the government here ahead of the parliament’s session.
Referring to GST, he noted that the issue was not about which government would get the credit for its introduction but the bill’s passage.
“We represent both the people and parties and there is a need to keep national interest above anything else,” Modi said, calling for passage of important bills, including the GST.
However, the Congress said that it will support in Parliament any legislation that is in the nation’s interest but offered no assurance.
Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is the party Chief Whip in Lok Sabha, said: “GST issue was not discussed in the all-party meeting. With regard to GST, the government has still to revert to us on the three demands (raised by the party). There have been intermittent discussions, but no solution has come.”
The three demands are one per cent additional levy to be implemented by states, 18 per cent cap on GST and setting up of a dispute resolution mechanism.
“We are still awaiting a concrete response from the government on these issues. It is very clear to the people of the country that this government is adamant,” he added.
He said the Congress would raise in Parliament issues like inflation, unemployment, interference of the central government in state affairs and incidents like Kairana
Party colleague Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, had told reporters ahead of the meeting that: “The Congress will support any bill which is in the interest of the nation, people and growth. We will let the bills pass on basis of merit… we do not obstruct passage of bills.”
He, however, did not clarify the party’s stand on the long-pending GST bill, which tops the government’s priority list.
Meanwhile, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said the issue of the GST bill cannot be settled between the Congress and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) alone.
“As far as the GST Bill is concerned, it’s not a matter to be settled bilaterally between BJP and Congress. I have been requesting the government since two years to call an all-party meet to discuss the GST bill and listen to our concerns to form consensus,” he said.
Terming the all party meeting “fruitful”, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar said all parties desired smooth functioning of parliament.
He also said that the government will talk to all opposition parties on the GST bill.
“We are talking to all parties and will talk in future as well on the GST and other bills. We want to create a consensus,” he said.
Responding to suggestions from some leaders for increasing the sittings of Parliament, Modi said he welcomed the suggestion and urged them to ensure proper utilisation of the available time.
As many as 45 leaders from 30 parties attended Sunday’s meeting where Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, and Ministers of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and S.S. Ahluwalia were also present.
Keen on passing the GST bill, the government has been holding a series of meetings with opposition leaders, which included an interaction that Jaitley had on Thursday with Azad and Deputy Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma.