The ruling BJP believes that the Congress’ objections to the Constitution (122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill are not on substantive issues but part of a design to scuttle the passage of the bill in the remaining six working days of the winter session of Parliament.

The refusal of Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad, Anand Sharma and Jyotiraditya Scindia to discuss the GST in a meeting called by the Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu on the grounds that Mallikarjun Kharge was not present was interpreted by the BJP as part of its delaying tactics. “The great expert on GST was not present. The Congress’s quorum was thus not complete in the meeting today,” said a senior BJP minister sarcastically.

As the principal opposition party picked up the issue of an alleged “insult” of the Kerala Chief Minister and a case of Dalit atrocity in the NDA-ruled Punjab to force adjournments in Parliament, different ministers pointed out that the Congress is only looking for reasons to disrupt both the Houses. The Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the reasons for the ongoing washout of the winter session “keep changing by the hour”.

“…The current session of Parliament is also threatened with a washout. The reasons for the washout of the current session keep changing by the hour. The Nation is waiting for Parliament to discuss public issues, to legislate and approve a historic Constitution Amendment enabling the GST. All this is being indefinitely delayed,” said Jaitley while quoting Jawaharlal Nehru’s commitment to a “high sense of responsibility and destiny” to remind the Congress of the historical legacy it claims.

According to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister, the Congress is “inventing” excuses to block Parliament.

“As Parliamentary Affairs Minister, I am deeply disappointed and anguished. They (Congress) are trying to invent a new excuse everyday to block Parliament. Today, we could not even discuss Indo-Pak relations in the Rajya Sabha. They are harming the Nation’s interests,” Venkaiah Naidu told Business Line.

According to Naidu, he is ready to walk any extra mile that the Congress wishes if it helps in passing GST. “I have had breakfast with Jyotiradityaji. I have met Veerappa Moily, Mallikarjun Kharge and other leaders. Today, our Finance Minister was in the meeting with the Congress leaders,” said Naidu.

To a question on whether the BJP has been “bypassing” Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, Naidu said: “That is absolutely not true. If meeting Rahulji is the issue, then I will go to his house and convince him. I will even take our Finance Minister with me to meet Rahulji if that helps the cause of reforms and development,” he added.

Naidu said when “vendetta politics” rebounded on the Congress, they changed tactic to focus on V. K. Singh’s “dog” remarks, the alleged corruption of BJP chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh.

“And today, they tell us that some cultural organisation in Kerala has not invited the Chief Minister for a function. Parliament is blocked because of that! All I can say is – please read the writing on the wall. The Nation wants reforms. Every party in Parliament is supporting GST. Help us pass the bill,” said Naidu.

Outside a press conference addressed by Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi who attacked Rahul Gandhi for making “baseless” charges against the RSS, the BJP distributed a letter by a Kerala Government official underlining that the CM has himself said that he will not be attending a function to unveil the stature of former Kerala CM R. Shankar.

Shrikant Sharma, BJP National Secretary, simultaneously issued a statement asserting that Rahul Gandhi’s utterances are a “part of the Congress’s campaign to disrupt Parliament”.

The ruling party has underlined that the ongoing meetings with the Congress constitute the final round of discussions before the GST is brought in. The bill is listed for discussion and passage this week. “We are ready to discuss any changes/amendments that the Congress brings in. It is a bill, it is not Bhagwat Gita and Lord Krishna’s word that cannot be revised. But from what we have seen of the Congress’s attitude, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that their objections are not on the substantive issues. They only want to delay the bill,” said a senior minister.

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