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BW Businessworld

Modi Govt Only Interested In Managing Headlines On GST, Says Congress

Party spokesman Surjewala says the ball is in the government's court and 'they must spell out the exact architecture of the GST bill'

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The Narendra Modi government may have listed the GST Bill in the Rajya Sabha for this week, but the Congress claims the government "has not done enough to engage it", and was "more interested in managing headlines in newspapers".

"The government's leading functionaries seem to be more interested in planting stories and managing headlines on the GST rather than any meaningful dialogue," said a top Congress leader, requesting anonymity.

"After the meeting of the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with the PM and a couple of ministers, wherein they put forward party's concerns on the Constitution amendment bill by way of a three-point agenda, there've been no talks with us. We are surprised by this," said Randeep Singh Surjewala, in-charge of communications at the All India Congress Committee.

Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian's report last week addressed the Congress's concerns in part, and Surjewala even described it as a forward movement, but since then nothing seems to have happened.

"The ball is in the government's court. They must spell out the exact architecture of the GST bill," said Surjewala.

In the absence of Congress president Sonia Gandhi - she was in the US for a medical check-up - it was said that Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi would lead the confabulations process.

But there have been problems on this count too. One, there has been no government channel open with Rahul. Two, Rahul has been busy rallying other Opposition parties on issues like Gen V.K. Singh. And, in his interventions in Parliament, he has been overtly critical of the Modi government, lambasting it "for various policy failures".

At a meeting of the trade wing of his party over the weekend, he opened another front against the government, saying that the Modi government and various BJP state governments were diluting labour rights, indicating that the legislative path for the government in Parliament won't be easy.

As reported by BW Businessworld earlier, the government had chalked out a plan to do business with the non-Congress, non-Janata parties if they insist on disrupting the proceedings with the Left. But even if the government has brought on board parties like BJD, TMC, SP, BSP, NCP, TRS, and even Tamil Nadu parties, it won't be able to reach the two-third mark, needed for this constitution amendment bill.

This makes it imperative that the Congress be brought on board on this landmark indirect tax legislation.

Prime Minister Modi in his recent interventions in Parliament had said that he would work "towards unanimity on policy matters". The Congress now demands this intent be shown on the ground.