The Congress is not defensive about stalling Parliament ever since summons was issued to Sonia and Rahul Gandhi in the National Herald case. Party veteran and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad maintains that it is actually the government that is not serious about getting important Bills passed in both Houses. Selective targeting of Opposition parties cannot be the ideal backdrop for seeking cooperation on crucial legislations such as the GST. In an interview to BusinessLine , Azad spoke of the National Herald case, the fate of the GST and the Congress’ immediate strategy in Parliament. Excerpts:

Is it not politically counter-productive for the Congress to stall crucial bills like the GST because of a corruption case linked to the Gandhis?

The Congress has always believed in the spirit of cooperation. It is the government which talks of cooperation on one hand and targets political opponents on the other. Inke munh mein Ram, bagal mein chhuri hai (There is a lot of difference between what they say and do). They claim that the government has nothing to do with the National Herald case. And yet, what do they do when the Enforcement Directorate closed the case in August this year – they replace the ED Director and reopen the case.

For the entire duration of the Monsoon Session, the Opposition demanded action in clear-cut corruption cases in which chief ministers of Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh were involved. In Rajasthan, there’s a clear case of money laundering. But the ED does not act in a multi-crore scam involving their own party [BJP]. [It, however] issue[s] a notice to a non-profit company [reference to the National Herald case] where the directors cannot take even a paisa out. It is a clear case of vendetta.

But the government has maintained that the action has come on a private complaint.

How can a political campaign by Subramanian Swamy, a member of the BJP’s national executive, be termed a private complaint? It is he who is claiming that he has got the case against the Congress leadership reopened by the ED.

Aren’t you isolated in Parliament? No other party seems to be supporting you.

That is not true. The Rashtriya Janata Dal, Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal(United) support us. The Opposition believes that this is a vindictive government.

The Congress is being criticised for being obstructionist at a time when the government and the PM have reached out to you.

The spirit of cooperation is alien to the BJP. They talk cooperation on one hand and [on the other] they let loose their agencies, members and MPs on the Opposition. On the GST, we are hearing them on television and the sharpness of their invective and abuse is increasing with each passing day. No one has reached out to me. On GST, we were supposed to have a discussion. I haven’t heard anything so far apart from, as I said, [I am only] hearing them on TV.

And since you have brought up GST, let me ask you – Do you know what the PM’s views on the GST are? Have you not heard him clearly demolishing GST when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat? Let the BJP not teach the Congress how serious they are on GST. The Congress is the author and the architect of GST. We have seen them how they were hell bent against GST. In our case, we are only talking about amendments. They were against the entire Bill altogether.

Moreover, GST is not the only item that will change the entire economic situation of India. The PM promised so many other things. Let them implement all they promised. We are for GST. And as and when Parliament functions and the government is ready to accept our amendments, we can discuss it. The Congress’ concerns remain pro-industry, pro-trade and very much pro-consumer.

But why disturb Parliament over a case which is being heard in a court?

The ruling party is taking revenge on the Opposition. We are victims of vendetta politics and we are MPs. Where else do we register our protest if not in the temple of democracy? It is only natural that we tell the country how this government is treating the Opposition.

My charge is that the ruling party members, MPs, ministers and their ideological fellow-travellers – the Bajrang Dal and the RSS – are creating conditions which necessitate political response.

And we can see that the government is condoning and encouraging these incendiary elements by keeping mum over their utterances.

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