New Delhi: Hopes of an agreement on the GST Bill appeared to fade despite talks between the government and the Congress on Monday even as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley apprehended a "wash out" of the current Winter session.
The deadlock continued on the Constitution amendment bill to provide for a uniform Goods and Services Tax after inconclusive talks between Jaitley and Congress leaders Ghulam Nabi Azad and Anand Sharma with the party making it clear that the engagement cannot be restricted to only one issue.
With just seven days left from tomorrow for the winter session, Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu hosted a lunch for the Congress leaders along with Chief Whip in Lok Sabha Jyotiraditya Scindia. Jaitley himself described the talks as a "non meeting".
Citing the absence of Leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge, who was not in Delhi, the Congress leaders sought another meeting, which was readily accepted by the government, which is to keen to break the logjam.
"Today's talks remain inconclusive. It is a work in progress. There was no structured discussion today," Sharma said noting that it was the first such meeting after Prime
Minister Narendra Modi reached out to Congress President Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
He insisted, "Engagement between Government and Opposition cannot be restricted to one issue. After not engaging Opposition for 18 months, Government is desperate to discuss with us just one bill. First they should not be over-obsessed with one bill as other important legislations are also pending."
Meanwhile, Jaitlery today apprehended a "wash out" of the current Winter session and attacked Congress over the disruption.
He invoked Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru to remind Congress of the responsibility of MPs for governance of the country through Parliament.
"The last session of the Parliament did not function. The current session of the Parliament is also threatened with a wash out. The reasons for the wash out 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. The question we need to ask ourselves is are we being fair to ourselves and this country?" Jaitley said in a Facebook post.
The Finance Minister also quoted a speech on the Parliamentary system by Pandit Nehru to hammer home his point.
He said that the speech delivered on March 28, 1957 in the last day of first Lok Sabha by Nehru is "a must read for all of us".
He quoted a paragraph from the speech in which Nehru had said, "Here, we have sat in this Parliament, the sovereign authority of India, responsible for the governance of India.
Surely, there can be no higher responsibility or greater privilege than to be a member of this sovereign body which is responsible for the fate of the vast number of human beings who live in this country.
"All of us, if not always, at any rate from time to time, must have felt this high sense of responsibility and destiny to which we had been called. Whether we were worthy of it or not is another matter. We have functioned, therefore, during these five years not only on the edge of history but sometimes plunging into the processes of making history."
Taking a dig at Congress over frequent disruptions in Rajya Sabha, Jaitley said, "Those who claim the legacy of Pandit ji must ask themselves the question, what kind of history are they making."
Sharma used the occassion to target Modi lamenting that the measure could not be passed for five long years during the UPA-II due to the opposition by the present Prime Minister, who was then the Gujarat Chief Minister.
"Indian economy has not gone into deep freeze" because of non-passage of the measure, Sharma who was Commerce and Industry Minister during UPA said charging the Modi government of "mismanaging the economy".
That despite the meeting with the Opposition, there was no let up in the confrontation between the two sides was clear with Jaitley remarking after the luncheon that the current session is also threatened with a washout.
"The last session of Parliament did not function. The current session of the Parliament is also threatened with a wash out. The reasons for the wash out of the current session keep changing by the hour," he said.