With barely three days left for the Monsoon session to end, government today moved in the Rajya Sabha the much-anticipated GST bill but Congress blocked a debate on it in the House which saw another day of washout.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who moved the bill amid slogan-shouting by Congress members, accused the main opposition party of trying to halt the country’s progress by blocking the crucial legislation on overhauling the indirect taxation system which could push the growth.
He said the Congress was using Lalit Modi issue against External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj as a “pretext” to stall the important tax legislation.
Jaitley moved the Constitution Amendment Bill for introducting GST (Goods and Services Tax) after the House passed, without discussion, the Appropriation Bills of the Finance Ministry and Railway Ministry, during which there were no protests by the opposition.
But then, Congress leader Anand Sharma said the GST bill cannot be taken up for discussion as no time has been allocated for it in the Business Advisory Committee (BAC), an inter-party panel which finalises schedule of the House.
He objected to the bill being listed in the business, saying it was done without the consent of members.
Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, however, asked Jaitley to move the bill, which was back in the House after scrutiny by a Select Committee of Parliament.
When Jaitley got up to move the bill, Congress members, who were silent till then, rushed into the Well, shouting slogans against the government move.
“The real purpose is that they want to stall to stall the economic progress of the country. The issue relating to the External Affairs Minister is merely a pretext.
“The real reason is they don’t want Indian economy to grow and that is why session after session, they are looking at one pretext or the other to make sure that the GST legislation, which will give a boost to India’s GDP and the economy, is not passed,” he said amid din.
Jaitley said, “The Congress party wants the economy of this country to slow down, when every political party is in support of it. They must candidly say so. They don’t need any pretext in order to say this.”
Earlier, members from Odisha, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Kerala and Bihar raised issues pertaining to their respective states amid the din created by Congress members.
Anubhav Mohanty (BJD) raised the issue of members not being allowed to speak in the House due to disruptions. He said he has been waiting for days to raise the problems concerning his state Odisha but has been unable to do so because of the disruptions.
Sanjiv Kumar (JMM) raised the issue of deaths in a stampede at a temple in his home state Jharkhand yesterday.
He said the compensation to the next of kin of those killed which was “not enough” and wanted the ex-gratia amount to be raised to Rs 10 lakh.
Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while terming the accident as unfortunate, said a committee headed by Home Secretary has already been announced to inquire into it.
Naresh Agrawal (SP) raised the issue of protocol, saying members of Rajya Sabha were considered lower in status to those of Lok Sabha as government has not made any of them as chairmen of vigilance committees for each district.
“Government has made Lok Sabha MPs as chairmen of various district vigilance committees and even though senior, Rajya Sabha members have been made their co-chairmen. Rajya Sabha members are considered inferior, whether senior or junior, whether experienced or not…
“Which House is superior or inferior. Will Rajya Sabha remain lower than Lok Sabha. Even on foreign tours of Rajya Sabha members, the Lok Sabha will decide. As per protocol, Rajya Sabha Chairman is higher than Lok Sabha Speaker. He is even above the Prime Minister. Will members of this House be insulted. I have raised a serious issue, Chairman should give a ruling,” he said.
This forced Kurien to tell the government, “It is a serious matter…Why not you make senior as Chairman and the junior one will be co-chairman?”
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said, “This is not our arrangement. This is continuing from the previous government. We respect the sentiments of members. This is there since previous times.”
K C Tyagi (JD-U) and Madhusudan Mistry also raised the issue of protocol.
Agarwal also referred to disparaging remarks being made against politicians by certain quarters, including on the issue of subsidised food in Parliament and MPs being termed as ‘terrorists’, saying such targeting will lead to the people losing faith in elected representatives.
The issue saw members from various parties, including those from Congress and BJP, condemning such remarks.
Joining Agarwal, Azad said people looked towards elected representatives when they had issues like jobs, roads, electricity and water.
“No one goes to media houses or business houses for these problems… What faith people will have on their representatives” if their image as well as that of the democratic institutions are destroyed, he wondered.