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Deadlock ends – Opposition Agrees to back 8 Bills – However GST remains a Mystery

Deadlock ends – Opposition Agrees to back 8 Bills – The Rajya Sabha has so far passed just one bill in the ongoing session. It will take up eight bills on Monday and Tuesday.

The goods and services tax (GST) bill virtually fell off the government’s radar for the winter session on Friday after it failed to secure the Congress-led opposition’s support for passage of the crucial tax reform in Rajya Sabha.

During an all-party meeting called by Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari, the opposition parties agreed to ensure functioning of the upper House for the remaining three days starting Monday and allow passage of eight bills.

However, the GST bill was not discussed.

The government also agreed to send the juvenile justice bill, that aims to consider juveniles between 16 and 18 years as adults for heinous crimes, and the whistleblowers’ amendments bill to the Rajya Sabha select committees for further review.

The Opposition will also get a chance to raise intolerance, Arunachal Pradesh governor’s conduct, price rise and drought and flood, with the government agreeing to discuss as these issues on Tuesday and Wednesday, as demanded by the Congress, CPI(M) and other parties.

The Rajya Sabha has so far passed just one bill in the ongoing session. It will take up eight bills on Monday and Tuesday.

But the 122nd Constitution amendment bill to roll out the GST will have to wait at least till March next year for its passage which means that the NDA government will miss its April 1, 2016 deadline to introduce the new indirect tax regime across the country.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had earlier met Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, for the first time, to end the GST logjam but differences between the two sides persisted over the principal opposition party’s demand for three key amendments.

Leaders like Congress’ Ghulam Nabi Azad and Trinamool’s Sukhendu Sekhar Roy suggested the government should push only those bills on which consensus have emerged, virtually ending chances of the GST bill’s passage.

CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury told the government to call an all-party meeting on the GST.

Although the Akali Dal representative demanded the GST bill should be passed, finance minister Arun Jaitley or anyone in the government didn’t push the issue.

An Interview with Mr.P J Kurien, deputy chairman of Rajya Sabha :

Question – The attempt by Vice-President and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to resolve the logjam in the House could have been made earlier. Isn’t it a bit late in the day to call an all-party meet?

Answer – No, no. It was not possible. Ten days ago, the members were so worked up and agitated, particularly members of the opposition. They were not ready for it. Gradually, the mood changed. The chairman called the meeting at an appropriate time. You see, whenever you call such a meeting, the bills that have consensus get passed. When the chairman saw that certain bills — on which there was consensus or wide acceptance — would not be taken up in the ongoing session, he took the initiative to call the meeting. Without his initiative, even those bills would not have been passed.

Question – Which are those bills?

Answer – The bills that will be taken up are the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, Atomic Energy Bill, The Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, Anti-Hijacking Bill, the Appropriation Act (Repeal) Bill. We will discuss them, and may send to relevant committees the bills on child labour, and Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2014. At the meeting we also agreed to have discussions on the Tamil Nadu floods, price rise and intolerance. There will also be a substantive motion against the Governor of Arunachal Pradesh. The final decision will be taken by the chairman. All these things should be discussed in the time available.

Question – Only three days are left.

Answer – It will not take too much time. We will reduce the time allotted to parties. We will work beyond 6 pm.

Question – The logjam was due to a tussle between two parties. Don’t you think there should be some mechanism so that an entire session is not wasted?

Answer – I agree. My view is that the House should not be disrupted. Debate, express dissent, and take a decision. If the opposition disagrees, vote against it. Reject and defeat it. It started during UPA-II and still continues now. We feel sorry and helpless about it.

Question – What is the way out?

Answer – Rajya Sabha rules do not provide for suspending members or a group of members that disrupts the House. Only the Lok Sabha Speaker has the right to do so. In our case, a motion needs to be carried to suspend the member or members. But will the opposition carry the motion? That is a problem. We should have a mechanism by which the chairman of the Rajya Sabha can suspend a member or members. In past meetings of the rules committee, the honourable chairman has made such suggestions, but a decision has not been not taken. If the rules are amended, the House will run more smoothly.

Question – Why will the GST bill not be taken up?

Answer – This meeting was convened on the initiative of the chairman of the Rajya Sabha. He took up issues on which there was consensus. There is no consensus yet on the GST bill.

Question – How long will this logjam continue?

Answer – The House will function for the next three days.

Question – What about the next session?

Answer – That’s a good question. There should be serious thought about it. A complete washout of the next session should not be allowed.

Question – At the all-party meet, RS member Naresh Gujral asked whether Saturday’s proceedings in Patiala House Courts would impact the running of the House on Monday.

Answer – That is a political question. I cannot answer that.

Source: Hindustan Times

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