Congress, government tussle blocks GST bill during winter session
New Delhi: The winter session of parliament that concluded on Wednesday saw a tussle between the opposition and the government on a range of issues with many crucial bills, including the GST and real estate bill, not getting parliamentary approval.
The session, which started on November 26 with a two-day special session on "Commitment to Constitution" to mark the 125th birth anniversary of the Constitution's chief architect B.R. Ambedkar, saw the Congress repeatedly targeting the government and forcing adjournments of the two houses.
The Rajya Sabha gave its nod to the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, against the backdrop of the release of the juvenile convict in the brutal gang rape of a young girl in the capital in December 2012.
Parliament also decided to refer the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2015, which proposes a single bankruptcy code with deadlines for processing insolvency cases, to a joint committee of the two houses.
The Lok Sabha, where the government has a comfortable majority, passed 14 bills and registered productivity of over 100 percent.
The Rajya Sabha, where the government lacks majority, passed nine bills and had a productivity of only 46 percent.
The Congress protests were more vociferous in the Rajya Sabha.
In the Lok Sabha, the party staged repeated walkouts after raising slogans against the government during question hour.
Unlike the washed out monsoon session, when the Congress had forced repeated adjournments over its demand for the resignation of three BJP leaders, the party raised many different issues during the winter session.
Congress leaders accused the government of political vendetta after BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's complaint in the National Herald case led to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party vice president Rahul Gandhi's appearance in a trial court.
The party also put pressure on the government for the resignation of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for alleged irregularities in the Delhi and District Cricket Association.
The party demanded the resignation of Minister of State for External Affairs Gen. V.K. Singh (retd) over his controversial remarks after an incident in Haryana in which two Dalit children were burnt to death.
The Congress also strongly protested the actions of Arunachal Pradesh Governor J.P. Rajkhowa relating to the state assembly and the alleged withdrawal of invitation for a function to Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
Both the government and the Congress blamed each other for disruptions in parliament.
The push by the government for passage of the Goods and Services Tax bill did not bear fruit as the Congress said it did not want "diluted solutions" to its three demands that include a cap on the GST rate at 18 percent, deletion of the provision for one percent tax by additional levy and an independent dispute resolution mechanism.
The GST bill is pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier held a meeting with Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh to break the ice on the GST bill.
The Lok Sabha also took up discussion on incidents of intolerance with the government firmly rejecting allegations by the Congress and some other opposition parties.
According to PRS Legislative Research, which tracks the work of parliament, eight bills were introduced and eight bills were passed by both houses during the session.
It said the Lok Sabha passed six other bills including those related to Indian trusts, salaries of high court and Supreme Court judges, carriage by air, Bureau of Indian Standards and national waterways.
"The end of the session saw building of political consensus which resulted in passage of bills in the upper house. However, their passage without debate raises serious questions about the rule of parliament as the highest law making body," said Chakshu Roy of PRS Legislative Research.
PRS said the Lok Sabha was more productive than the Rajya Sabha in the last four sessions.
The bills passed by the Rajya Sabha included those on negotiable instruments, commercial courts, atomic energy and payment of bonus.
The house also passed the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill and the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill.
Industry body Assocham said another opportunity was missed for passage of the GST bill "which is the most important tax reform ever proposed in the country".
"It is rather unfortunate that as important an economic issue which would have made a positive difference to India's GDP by 1.5 percent has fallen to expediency of some political parties," Assocham president Sunil Kanoria said.