Parliament face-off on demonetisation delays GST process

Live mint By Meenal Thakur | Gyan Varma Wed, Dec 07 2016. 10 43 PM IST

The face-off between the two sides on demonetisation is now threatening to claim collateral damage—derailing of the roll out of the GST.

The face-off between the opposition and the government was triggered by the former’s demand that Modi should be present in the House during the debate on demonetisation. Photo: AFP

New Delhi: With neither the government nor the opposition willing to blink, deadlock continued in Parliament.

The face-off between the two sides is now threatening to claim collateral damage—derailing of the roll out of the goods and services tax (GST). The political differences have spilled over into the GST council and has led to the deferment of discussion on the model GST law—something that was to be moved for Parliament’s approval in this session.

The highlight of the day was, however, an outburst by L.K. Advani, veteran leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in which he castigated both sides for the unsavoury situation. “Neither the Speaker (Sumitra Mahajan) nor parliamentary affairs minister (Ananth Kumar) is running the House,” PTI quoted Advani as saying.

The veteran politician’s remarks came even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi dubbed the actions of the opposition as undemocratic, especially since it was provoked by the move to demonetize high-value bank notes—an action which the PM described as “constructive”.

Addressing the parliamentary party meeting of the BJP, Modi said the Union government had undertaken a major reform which was being supported by people, adding that the demonetisation issue should be debated in Parliament.

“Opposition parties are doing so for no valid reason and as part of a political agenda. We have made it clear that the prime minister will speak in both the Houses but they keep changing the goal posts,” said Ananth Kumar, parliamentary affairs minister, after the meeting.

With just six working days left for the winter session, the legislative business has witnessed a setback as only one major bill, The Taxation Laws (Second Amendment) Bill, 2016, was passed on 29 November in the Lok Sabha.

The face-off between the opposition and the government was triggered by the former’s demand that Modi should be present in the House during the debate on demonetisation.

Congress MP Anand Sharma reiterated the demand on Wednesday. However, finance minister Arun Jaitley claimed that the opposition was being unfair in its demands.

“The government and council of ministers function on a collective responsibility, so one specific person need not answer the opposition. Still we have made it clear that the prime minister will come and participate in the debate. There’s no precedent in House since 1952 that the PM must be here to listen to each and every member,” Jaitley said in the Rajya Sabha.

The House was later adjourned as opposition parties raised slogans against the government in the well of the Raj Sabha.

Similarly, the Lok Sabha was also adjourned as the opposition continued its demand for a discussion on the issue of demonetisation under rule 184 which entails voting. Rejecting this demand, Ananth Kumar, said, “It is beyond my understanding why the Congress, the Trinamool Congress and the Left parties are opposing when we are ready for discussion under Rule 193 (which does not entail voting).”

Analysts say that though it is the responsibility of the government to ensure Parliament functions, the opposition’s claims were weak.

“The opposition doesn’t have a strong case to stall the House. The prime minister was present in the House today and the opposition could have found some common ground to hold a debate on the issue,” said Manisha Priyam, a New Delhi-based political analyst.

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