The portends of a stormy monsoon session of Parliament and a renewed push from the government for the passage of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill have become stronger after the BJP gained three extra seats to notch up 56 seats in the Rajya Sabha on Saturday.
Union Communications Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad flagged this more aggressive approach of the ruling party saying that the extra seats were a “victory of the BJP’s strategy.”
“We wanted to raise our tally of seats in the Rajya Sabha for obvious reasons, and we have been successful; Congress’ weaknesses have been exposed,” he said.
“It is the political dharma of any political party to consolidate its position,” he added.
The treasury benches are still short of numbers in the Rajya Sabha, where the Opposition has managed to hold its own.
The party had full numbers for only nine of the 12 seats that it won, but gained three seats (one each from Rajasthan, Jharkhand and Haryana) by working on Independents and non-Congress parties, as well as the strange case of 14 invalid votes cast by Congress MLAs in Haryana.
Party sources said party chief Amit Shah had taken a call on this risky strategy, assessing that there was no other way of increasing the party’s tally in the Upper House for a long time to come.
Party leaders and union ministers in Allahabad for the BJP’s national executive justified its aggressive poll strategy for these extra seats.
“It is a message to the Congress to re-examine its strategy of obstructionism in the Rajya Sabha,” a senior Cabinet Minister told The Hindu.
“For more than a year and a half, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been seeking cooperation from the Congress but that party has blocked all routes to legislation. In the case of the GST, we have exhausted all the institutional avenues available within the parliamentary system. It is time to call the Congress’s bluff,” he said. “On the GST, we want to expose the Congress; either they issue a whip to their members to vote against the Bill or they lock it through protest,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said on several public occasions, including a meeting with Japanese investors in Osaka this month, that he was “reasonably confident” of getting the constitutional amendment on GST through, since “every political party, including the Congress, favours the GST. In fact, the Congress should have had the vision to support it more aggressively because they could claim the original authorship of the idea.”
He had also said that “every other political party, from the Janata Dal (U) to the Trinamool to the Left in West Bengal and Kerala and the RJD in Bihar was in favour of the GST.”