PM Narendra Modi will have to break his ‘maun vrata’ and lead from the front in breaking the parliamentary logjam if he is serious about pushing reforms.
It is good that Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu is talking to the non-NDA parties to salvage the Monsoon Session by getting the goods and services tax (GST) Bill passed along with a few others in the proposed second part of the session, that the NDA government wants to convene for this purpose.
The government is looking at this window in September to clear the GST, the real estate bill and the negotiable instruments bill, and its managers say that Naidu is willing to speak to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to get this going.
But, the problem is that nothing has changed in terms of the political stance of both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since the adjournment of the Monsoon Session on August 13, which could have helped build a consensus here.
The Monsoon Session saw one of the most bitter exchange of words between the senior leaders of the two parties, and for any improvement in the working relationship, first of all, the top leadership must come in good talking terms.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi being in-charge of the government, therefore, needs to shrug off his ‘maun vrata’ and take the initiative himself by speaking to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi.
If he can explain the importance of reform like GST to his officials and cabinet colleagues and the foreign investors, what is the problem in talking to the Congress party chief and also others in the Opposition ranks, directly.
In any case, the NDA lacks a majority in the Rajya Sabha, and it needs the support of other parties to get the Bill passed by Parliament and implement the tax reform from April 1, 2016.
Of course, the Congress party leaders will demand resignations of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj in Lalitgate and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan in the Vyapam scam, besides demanding changes that it has suggested in the GST Bill — scrapping of 1% additional tax and fixing of 18% rate — but this can’t be a reason for avoiding direct connect.
There is nothing to lose for the prime minister here as even if he fails to persuade Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, he will at least not be faulted for not trying enough.
On its part, the Congress party must understand that blocking of reforms will ensure that India misses another opportunity to capitalise on the global turmoil and grow fast.