New Delhi: The government on Wednesday decided to prorogue the monsoon session of parliament, putting at rest speculation of a special sitting to pass the much-awaited Goods and Services Tax Bill.
Blaming the Congress for the delay in the passage of the bill, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that the government had been talking to the party over this and found that the chief opposition party was unlikely to change its stance on disrupting house proceedings. Congress was quick to reject the charge, saying that the finance minister's comments were "political kite-flying" and hit back at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Jaitley told the media after a meeting of the union cabinet: "The Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) which met here has decided to request the president to prorogue the monsoon session of Parliament.
"Initially there were indications that they will take a decision on whether to change their attitude on disrupting house proceedings, specially on the GST Bill. We tried to make them understand, but we have been told that this will continue."
The Congress which had been demanding the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over the Lalit Modi issue and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the Vyapam scam, had repeatedly disrupted both the houses of parliament in the monsoon session.
Jaitley said that the "Congress party's anger seems to be both with the government and the people of India. Their attitude is guided by a revenge against the government as well as the people after they were reduced to 44 seats in the Lok Sabha.
"It (the Congress) has only one weapon of not letting the parliament function. Majority and numbers are against them. We tried to make them understand about the global slowdown and told them that all political parties should display elements of statesmanship.
"We will keep trying. We are in contact with all political parties. And nearly all parties except Congress are in favour of this bill. In Lok Sabha, except Congress, all political parties had voted in favour of the bill. Congress had walked out, they (other parties) had not walked out. If situation changes, then the cabinet will again reconsider the matter."
The GST Bill is now likely to be brought in the Rajya Sabha during the November-December winter session of parliament. While the Lok Sabha has already passed the bill, it will have to again do so as a parliamentary committee has suggested amendments to the bill.
The monsoon session of parliament was adjourned sine die on August 13 without transacting any substantial business due to the Congress protests.
In a strong rebuttal, Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said: "Even as Jaitley gets into the political kite-flying mode, we would counsel him to take his role as the finance minister of the country more seriously, by spending time in South Block rather than in television studios."
"We would like to remind the finance minister that it was the Congress party and its government that authored the GST, and even today, our opposition is not to the bill, but limited to only those parts which kill the soul and spirit of the real GST legislation."
Surjewala, in a statement, said: "'Insinuations', 'innuendos', 'indiscretions' appear to have become buzzwords of the political conduct of finance minister. He has again tried to claim ownership of GST and the path to growth, even after having obdurately opposed GST for more than seven years."
"Instead of apologizing to the nation, on behalf of the entire BJP and the prime minister, who as the chief minister of Gujarat, had doggedly remained the staunchest opponent of arrival at a consensus on GST, the finance minister, is trying to give the Congress party sermons on economy, growth and inclusion," he added.