The first week of monsoon session was washed away except for a few hours of proceedings, with the protesting opposition adamant on the issue of GST and inflation, while the government looked in no mood to relent on the issue of discussions in the way the opposition had proposed.
Former Congress leader and Independent MP Kapil Sibal has advised to alter the rules of procedure to conduct business in the House, saying, “We should have one day of the week for any matter the opposition wishes to discuss. The government should have no right to veto and no legislation should be passed without discussion. On this the opposition must cooperate.”
But things are not that easy as most of the opposition leaders are upset over the alleged misuse of Central probe agencies.
The Congress has put the onus on the government, with the party`s Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh saying, “The Modi Sarkar`s blanket refusal to hold debate on the urgent issues of price rise and GST on food items is a problem.”
Another issue the opposition is upset about is the alleged political witch-hunt.
Interim Congress President Sonia Gandhi being summoned by the ED again on Tuesday in connection with the National Herald case has irked the Congress, which protested in the Parliament over the alleged harassment of its party chief.
Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs, Pralhad Joshi, had attacked the opposition by saying, “The opposition parties are not interested in the question hour. They do not want to participate in debate and are not at all interested in passing any bill. By disturbing the House, they are snatching away the rights of honourable members of the Parliament.”
While the impasse may not end soon, the government has started pushing for bills and on Friday it passed a bill, which was listed from day one in the Lok Sabha.
The GST imposed on basic items such as food products, hotel accommodation and hospital beds is the main reason for the ongoing impasse.
Tax rates have been increased from 12 percent to 18 percent on products such as printing, writing or drawing ink, knives with cutting blades, spoons, forks, paper knives, pencil sharpeners, and LED lamps.
Five per cent GST will also be charged on hospital rooms above Rs 5,000 per day, although ICU beds have been exempted.
Reacting to the development, the Congress said that these rate revisions are unwelcome at a time when inflation is putting pressure on the pockets of the common man.
“The CPI inflation in May 2022 stood at 7.04 per cent, and was as high as 7.79 per cent in April. These are way higher than the maximum limit of 6 per cent set by the RBI. All the products for which GST rates have been revised upwards are items that are consumed daily by the lower and middle classes,” said Congress spokesperson Gaurav Vallabh.
The GST Council, during a two-day meeting in June, had accepted recommendations for rate rationalisation made by sub-groups, resulting in tax changes effective from July 18.