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PM Modi seeks support for GST Bill from all Opposition parties

The Opposition would seek to corner the government for its “attempts to destabilise” states ruled by it and the Kashmir unrest in Parliament, but also offer “merit-based” support to measures like the GST Bill which Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said was of “national importance”.

At an all-party meeting here a day ahead of the Monsoon Session from Monday, leaders of several opposition parties spoke of developments inArunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand signalling their intent to train guns on the government, with Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad saying the states no longer trusted the BJP-led government at the Centre.

Modi, who joined the meeting later, thanked all parties for “speaking in one voice” on the developments in Kashmir and sought their support in the passage of the GST Bill, saying it was of “national importance” and urging them to keep national interests above everything else, sources said.

Addressing the meeting, Modi said important bills, including the GST, are to be taken up during the session and expressed the hope that there would be meaningful discussions and outcomes, officials said.

“Referring to introduction of GST, the Prime Minister noted that the issue was not about which government would get the credit for this, but what is important is the passage of the bill,” they said.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters after the two-hour meeting that Parliament was a “mahapanchayat” where all issues could be raised.

He said the government will talk to all parties to evolve a consensus on the GST.

“Our legislative business, including GST, is a priority. We want to see to that we pass the GST bill with consensus. We are going to take every party on board,” he said.

Kumar played down the attacks of Congress, the Left and some other parties on the government over the Arunachal issue, saying different issues can be debated.

“We have assured all parties that there will be open-mindedness and we are ready to discuss all issues,” he said.

Speaking to reporters, Azad accused the government of “using all tricks” to destabilise opposition-ruled governments and took potshots at Modi over his talk of cooperation between the Centre and states by pointing out that even a BJP ally like Akali Dal has attacked it over “undermining” states.

Though he did not refer to GST directly, he said the Congress will offer support to bills on merit. “We have not taken any decision that we have to stop a bill. We will support on merit. We will support any bill which is in support of people, progress and growth,” he said. Ananth Kumar said the government has lined up 16 bills for passage in the session.

Growing incidents of terror attacks in different parts of the world and their implications for the country, foreign policy, floods in states like Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand were listed by him among the issues to be discussed in Parliament, the Parliamentary Affairs Minister said.

“The meeting was very fruitful. All the parties desired smooth functioning of Parliament and assured of their cooperation. Congress too assured support to legislative proposals based on merits,” he said.

Asked about some chief ministers like Nitish Kumar raising the issue of role of governors at the Inter-State Council meeting here on Saturday, he said these were not discussed.

Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia played down the talks between his party and the government to break the impasse over the long-pending GST bill and said they wanted the government to share with them a written draft over the demands made by the party.

“We can give a response only after we receive a written draft from the government,” he said as he rejected the contention that the Congress was blocking the bill, saying GST was “a baby given birth” by his party.He also referred to the Kairana issue, suggesting that it was aimed at stoking communal tension and said his party will take it up during the session. CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the BJP and the Congress were indulging in “match-fixing” on the GST issue and asked the government to follow the parliamentary spirit as Atal Bihari Vajpayee dispensation did and consult all parties.

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