Modi to speak in Lok Sabha on GST

Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi, prime ministerial candidate for India's main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), addresses a rally in the northern Indian city of Agra November 21, 2013. Modi used a large rally in the historic city of Agra on Thursday to push his Hindu nationalist agenda in a key election state where the sizeable Muslim minority eyes his campaign with alarm. REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee (INDIA - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may have kept away from the proceedings in the Rajya Sabha during the debate and passage of the Goods and Services (GST) Bill, but he will be making an intervention in the Lok Sabha on Monday, when the amended Bill is debated in that House.

Senior sources in the government confirmed to The Hindu that Prime Minister Modi will be speaking on the Bill, the passage of which (in the Rajya Sabha) he had termed as a “historic occasion” and “the best example of cooperative federalism.”

Sources in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) dismissed speculation over his non-appearance in the Rajya Sabha, where the Constitutional Amendment enabling the GST was being debated on Wednesday. “The Prime Minister was in his chamber in Parliament when the Bill was being debated, and if you notice, no Minister who is a member of the Lok Sabha, except the two Ministers of State for Finance, were present in the Rajya Sabha. The PM felt that the Finance Minister had matters well in hand, there was no need to intervene,” said the source.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley meanwhile dialled Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar to discuss the possibility of calling a special session of the Assembly to clear the GST. “A Constitutional Amendment is operationalised, after clearing both Houses of Parliament with two-thirds majority, and after 50 per cent of the State legislatures clear the amendment. The BJP has governments in 10 States out 29 in India, and with West Bengal and Bihar ready to do the needful in their State legislatures, we can get this tied up soon,” said a senior office bearer of the BJP.

BJP chief Amit Shah has already summoned the Chief Ministers of BJP-ruled States for a meeting on August 27, to push for an early clearance of the GST Bill. Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu also spoke to them for expediting the Bill. Sources say Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has agreed not to prorogue the current session and clear GST.

The party and government is not resting on its laurels when it comes the vote in the Lok Sabha either. The Prime Minister’s Office is closely watching the vote, and says that “apart from the 37 MPs of the AIADMK, who do not support the Bill, our effort would be to make sure that all MPs vote ‘aye’.”

The NDA has nearly 330 seats in the Lok Sabha, and with parties like the Trinamool Congress and the Janata Dal (U) whole heartedly supporting the Bill, the zeal to secure votes may seem a little misplaced. “While it’s true that the government will find it easier to carry the vote in the Lok Sabha, we want near total unanimity,” said a senior office bearer of the BJP.

Party sources say general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya has been asked to speak to State BJP chiefs to ensure that no functions requiring the presence of party MPs are organised. “Each senior MP has been allotted 11 MPs to keep track of and ensure their presence. Two of our MPs are hospitalised and we have kept air ambulances on stand by for the same,” said the source.

So seriously are the BJP MPs taking the vote on the GST, that in the Rajya Sabha, Punjab MP Shawet Mallik insisted on attending the vote despite the fact that his newborn granddaughter had died, and his daughter was in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU).

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