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GST bill in danger again as political war erupts over National Herald case


The fate of the GST bill looked uncertain after the National Herald case triggered a full-fledged political war between the Congress and the NDA government on Tuesday.

Even functioning of Parliament in the remaining days of the Winter Session looked bleak after the AICC accused the Modi government of 'using' Subramanian Swamy — BJP leader and petitioner in the case — as a 'tool to wage a 'proxy war' against the Congress leadership and said the issue, "shall be fought both politically and legally."

It was evident that the Congress is trying to replicate Indira Gandhi's strategy of portraying herself as a victim after the Janata Party regime dragged her to courts. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi led the Congress when she told reporters in Parliament, "why should I be scared of anyone? I am Indira's daughter-in-law. I am not scared of anybody."

In Chennai, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi backed her by saying, "the Centre thinks they can stop me from asking questions about them by adopting vendetta politics. That is not going to happen... I am going to put pressure on the government and will continue to do my job."

When asked whether the stand-off in Parliament would affect the GST bill, Congress leader Anand Sharma said, "Parliament can't be a platform only for passing just one bill. GST Bill is a work in progress. Let us see what the government has to propose in response to our conditions." When a reporter persisted by asking whether the bill would be passed tomorrow (Wednesday), Sharma quipped in jest, "tomorrow? GST bill has gone for a skywalk."

While the party leadership officially maintained that the legal issue will not be linked to GST bill, a top source said, "if Modi government thinks it can make Congress give up on its well-considered conditions on GST by arm-twisting or blackmailing, they are sadly mistaken." Soon after agitated colleagues venting their anger and outrage over the court summons at a meeting presided over by Sonia Gandhi in Parliament, Congress MPs forced serial adjournments of both Houses chanting, "down with dictatorship."

Though the Lok Sabha Speaker and treasury benches asked the Congress to spell out its grouse, party MPs refused to heed. While TMC MPs stood up in solidarity, some non-Congress Opposition leaders who had a chat with Sonia Gandhi said she was agitated and determined to see her MPs fight it out.

Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad alleged in the Rajya Sabha that the NDA regime, "is targeting top leaders of Congress, be it Gandhis, Virbhadra Singh, P Chidambaram, Vaghela or Ashok Gehlot, through flimsy charges while turning a blind eye on serious charges against BJP ministers and CMs in Vyapam, Lalit Modi issue etc." Tactically trying to woo other Opposition parties, Azad said the NDA regime "is also targeting" leaders of SP, BSP, TMC etc.

Addressing a joint press conference along with Abhishek Singhvi and Randeep Surjewala later, Kapil Sibal said: "Who is Swamy? He is the power of attorney holder of the BJP to persecute and prosecute the Congress party and a member of BJP's central committee. He has been given the specific task of targeting us."

'Solidarity show' on Sonia Gandhi's birth day: Amidst the raging political war, comes Sonia Gandhi's 69th birth day on Wednesday. Many Congress leaders and party MPs are planning to call her at 10 Janpath on Wednesday morning which could also become a kind of solidarity show in the current political context.

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