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BW Businessworld

National Herald Case Threatens To Derail Not Only GST Bill But Also Remainder Of Winter Session

The government side and its managers, meanwhile, were at pains to stress that they had no role in the matter that fell in the domain on the judiciary

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The National Herald case now threatens to derail not only the GST bill but also the remainder of the winter session (which was to run till December 23.)

The Modi government hoped to pass the GST bill with the support of the Congress in the Upper House, as the Constitution amendment bill needs to be passed with a two-third majority.

With the latest developments in the case -- Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice president Rahul have been asked to appear in person on December 19 in the metropolitan magistrate’s court in Delhi on a petition filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy – the government hopes have been dashed.

“This case (National Herald) would definitely have a bearing on the GST bill. There’s no way that Parliament would run today,” Congress chief whip in the Rajya Sabha, Satyavrat Chaturvedi told Businessworld.

He was one of the leaders who was forthright on this, willing to be quoted.

Deputy leader of Opposition in the House, Anand Sharma was more circumspect while talking to Businessworld, saying that “National Herald and GST were two separate things”. He was, however, quoted by Reuters as saying that after the National Herald Case, the “GST Bill has gone for a sky walk”.

All India Congress Committee Communications in-charge Randeep Singh Surjewala, too, told Businessworld that while the party “remained committed to GST (with its reservations in place)”, the National Herald case “showed Modi government’s political vendetta”.

This line of “political vendetta”, “conspiracy” and “Modi government’s dirty tricks” department was repeated by many Congress leaders ranging from Ghulam Nabi Azad to legal eagles like Kapil Sibal and Abhishek Manu Singhvi.

The subtext of the Congress leaders’ pronouncements was clear – that in principle “they remain committed to the GST bill” (“they being its original authors”), but Parliament won’t be allowed to function as long as the matter involving the Big Two of the Congress continued. In effect, thus, the GST bill would not be passed, and its 2016 rollout deadline would be missed.

The government side and its managers, meanwhile, were at pains to stress that they had no role in the matter that fell in the domain on the judiciary.

While the government had hoped that the return of Sonia Gandhi from the US would re-start the process of talks to narrow down the differences on GST, the National Herald case had just the opposite effect.

Apart from the PM reaching out to the Congress president and former PM Dr Manmohan Singh, some informal parleys were also happening between parliamentary party leaders of the BJP and the Congress. Now with the supreme leaders of the Congress challenged by the judiciary, there’s no way that it will continue.

Government managers now also fear that the Congress storm-troopers would not allow both the Houses to function – at least till Dec 19, when the Top Two of the Congress have been asked to appear in the court. While both the Houses of Parliament were repeatedly disrupted by Congress members on Tuesday, they had run smoothly, much to everyone’s surprise, till Monday. In a piece on Friday, Businessworld had noted that overall the two Houses’ productivity till last week stood at 95 per cent.

All that, however, would change now.

The Congress may have argued that Swamy is the government’s dirty tricks department, but the truth is far more complex.

Swamy, often described as a one-man army against the Gandhis, was hailed by the RSS and the BJP’s loyal followers when the Government was perceived to be soft towards them. It’s a well-known fact that Swamy and the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley don’t see eye to eye on most issues.

Swamy, however, counts the RSS and Modi as his sympathisers and it was actually Modi who wanted his entry into the party fold. But to argue that Swamy is government’s dirty tricks department would be stretching the point too far, say BJP leaders, “as Swamy is not the one to be bound by party boundaries, hierarchies and discipline”.