Given the heightened tension over the bungling at JNU and the aftermath of the Jat agitation, the Budget session will most likely be another washout with few Bills getting passed. Yet, the government has done well to try and calm things. While prime minister Narendra Modi’s presence at the all-party meeting last week was one signal, Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari also met senior political leaders to ensure ‘more discussions and fewer disruptions’. The most significant move by government, though, was choosing West Bengal finance minister Amit Mitra as the chairman of the empowered committee of state finance ministers on GST. The West Bengal finance minister has taken over from Kerala finance minister KM Mani, who had to resign in November last year due to the corruption charges, and is the second chairman of the empowered committee from West Bengal.
Given his background as FICCI secretary general, Mitra’s credentials for the job are obvious. Indeed, given TMC chief Mamata Banerjee’s turnaround in terms of wanting to woo industry, the move could also mean the TMC might well support the GST Bill. Getting the TMC’s 12 votes in the 242-member Rajya Sabha may not help tilt the balance in the centre’s favour—the Congress which is against the GST has 67 members—but if the government is able to get the support of other parties, GST may just have a fighting chance in even the Budget session; that, of course, explains why so many members of the government are now talking of the GST Bill’s likely passage. Even if GST doesn’t get passed, if the government is able to get other parties to ally with it, other critical Bills like the bankruptcy one can get passed. What will be critical, however, is to ensure the government doesn’t lose the plot and resort to name-calling during various high-tension Parliament debates such as over the events at JNU—indeed, after prime minister Modi called Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former prime minister Manmohan Singh for tea, both he and senior party members began attacking Sonia and Rahul Gandhi. It is important that this not be repeated.