As the eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the Congress and the NDA Government rose to a new level in the two Houses on Wednesday, a possible washout of the Winter Session looked imminent with slender hope of transaction of key legislative business, including the passing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill to roll out the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Real Estate Regulation Bill.
Pricked by the National Herald case, the Congress suddenly seemed to have slammed the brakes on the Parliament session which was earlier cruising smoothly unlike the last Parliament session when no business could be transacted on account of similar disruptive tactics adopted by the main Opposition party over Lalitgate. “As of now there is no room for anything positive to happen,” said a senior BJP Minister referring to the “vendetta” charge leveled by Congress scion Rahul Gandhi and crippling of the two Houses by slogan-shouting Congress MPs.
Sources said surfacing of the National Herald case two days ago had led to a virtual breakdown of dialogue between the Treasury and the Opposition benches. “Passing of the GST Bill in this session is not possible,” said a senior Akali Dal leader and added that it looked like it was time to bring the curtains down on the Winter Session which initially was to conclude on December 23.
A similar sentiment was expressed by a top ruling party leader, who said, “The Congress was never interested in passing the GST Bill”. Lambasting the Congress for holding the nation to ransom on the GST Bill, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu threw the ball into the party’s court saying “it is for the Congress to decide what it wants to do with it.”
The GST and the Real Estate Regulation Bills were among the 38 legislations which were to be taken up in the two Houses of Parliament in the Winter Session that started on November 26. Until the Herald storm threatened to derail the Session proceedings, the Rajya Sabha Business Advisory Committee had allotted time this week for GST (four hours for discussion) and Real Estate Bills (two hours for discussion) with the Government proposing four more Bills in the Lok Sabha and seven in the Rajya Sabha.
The Government had prioritised 22 Bills, including the Whistleblower Protection (Amendment) Bill, 2015, the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, 2015, the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, 2015 and the Child Labour (Protection and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012. The Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014 is also pending. The controversial Land Acquisition Bill which is being discussed by a joint parliamentary panel is already on the backburner with the panel getting another extension (until the last week of the session) to submit its report.