New Delhi: In a bid to end the stalemate over the impending Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday invited Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for a tea at his residence.
The face-to-face meeting between the two political rivals would be the first since the BJP won a landslide victory 18 months ago, and could herald a compromise between the government and the main opposition party on GST and a number of other bills scheduled for discussion and passage in the winter session.
On his various trips abroad, PM Modi has assured foreign investors that he would make the landmark indirect tax law a reality by 2016. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Thursday said that Modi is willing to discuss the GST bill with everyone so it can be passed. “We have absolutely no hesitation even at the level of Prime Minister, we have never had in it in the past, we don’t have it (now). He is willing to speak to everyone,” Jaitley said.
The Congress had stalled the passage of the GST Constitution Amendment Bill in the last session of Parliament and demanded that a revenue-neutral rate not higher than 18 per cent be mentioned in the bill. It is also opposed to states being given powers to levy an additional 1 per cent tax on the supply of goods over and above the GST rate.
On Friday, Modi is also likely to make the concluding remarks at the ongoing Parliament discussion on Constitution Day. A war of words over the word ‘secular’ is already on since Thursday.
Shortly after the House met on Thursday, Home Minister Rajnath Singh, in his speech on India’s Constitution and its architect Dr B R Ambedkar, called ‘secular’ the most misused word in Indian politics and asked why the words ‘Secular’ and ‘Socialist’ were added to the preamble of the Constitution by a Congress government in the 1970s.
Rajnath even targeted actor Aamir Khan over his remarks on rising intolerance in the country. “Ambedkar too faced injustice and discrimination due to social iniquities, but kept control over his feelings, and always presented an objective point of view,” the minister said.
“He (Ambedkar) never said how much he is being insulted in India. He said he will live in India for strengthening the country. He never thought he will go somewhere elsewhere,” he said, drawing strong protests from the opposition benches.
A furious Congress hit back, with Sonia accusing the Modi government of deliberately attacking “the ideals and principles that inspired the country for decades”. “The people who have no faith in the Constitution, who have not contributed to its making, they are talking about it repeatedly, are trying to appropriate it. There cannot be a bigger joke,” she said.