New Delhi: Intensifying government's efforts to bring the opposition around on the crucial GST bill ahead of the Monsoon session of Parliament, Union Ministers Arun Jaitley and Ananth Kumar Friday met Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma to help break the impasse on it.
During the meeting, that lasted about 45 minutes, the two sides put forth their points of view and after discussing the issue with their respective parties, decided to meet again once the Monsoon session starts on July 18.
Asked if the meeting was positive and if the issues have been resolved, both sides were non-committal and said only preliminary discussions were held today. They also did not comment on whether the bill will see its passage or not.
"We are trying to build consensus on GST. We have discussed all the points. Once the session starts, we will meet again after discussing the issue within our respective parties," Jaitley said after the meeting, which was held in Azad's room in Parliament.
Azad, who is leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha, said this was a preliminary meeting where the two sides presented their points of view and will meet again after discussions with the respective leaderships of government and Congress.
"We had an in-depth discussion. We gave our point of view, they gave theirs. We put forth our apprehensions and suggestions. We will get back to our leadership and they will get back to their leadership and then we will meet again," he said.
Sharma said the two sides sensitised each other on their respective positions on the issue.
"The talks are on. We will brief our leadership and will meet again after the session starts," he said.
Sharma added that it is in the interest of the government and the Congress party to put forth each other's position in the preliminary discussion on the issue and then discuss it with our leaderships and then meet again.
Asked if Congress would stick to its stand that the constructive dialogue with the government will not be on the passage of one bill, the Congress leaders said it is a larger issue that would be discussed with other opposition parties also, but today's meeting was on a specific issue.
"Constructive engagement between government of the day and opposition as a whole cannot be limited or made conditional upon passage or non-passage of one bill," Sharma said.
The government had yesterday reached out to the opposition party with Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu calling up Azad and Sharma to seek Congress' backing for the bill.
The GST bill has been hanging fire for a long time due to stiff opposition from Congress.
The Constitution amendment bill for roll-out of GST is pending in Rajya Sabha for a long time and the government is keen to ensure its passage. The Goods and Services Tax seeks to bring a uniform tax structure subsuming a number of imposts and the government claims that it will help add 1 to 2 per cent to the country's GDP.
Top Congress leaders had yesterday deliberated on the strategy for the session with party president Sonia Gandhi at her residence where GST was also discussed.
Congress has been pressing for a GST cap of 18 percent as part of the Constitutional Amendment bill with which the government is not in agreement.
Insiders say the demand has become a sticking point, but Congress may relent and agree to a cap in the statute and not as part of the Constitution bill.