Sensing coming session would once again a noisy event; both BJP and Congress party are busy setting their agenda ahead of the budget session. While the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is thumping his chest chanting NDA would turn the GST Bill into legislation in next session, Rahul Gandhi has once again reiterated that Congress party won’t compromise with national interest. He has said that Congress won’t carve itself away from repeating its behavior if they come across any kind of malpractice being done by any BJP lawmaker, neither in centre nor in states. Asit Manohar had an opportunity to have a chit-chat with Rahul Gandhi, Vice President, Indian National Congress during a media interaction at his official residence in New Delhi. Edited excerpts:
BJP has indicated that they would accept two modifications suggested by the Congress party but putting GST rate in the constitution would be difficult……
(Interrupts) What kind of difficulty….
They said that it would require constitutional amendment if there is need to put cess in the wake of natural calamity.
Let me ask you one question. Which party would not support putting cess if there is a natural calamity? These are excuses that the BJP is putting into the public domain because they don’t want to make GST Bill become legislation.
But, the Finance Minister is quite vocal about the GST Bill?
Actually RSS don’t want GST Bill to become legislation. Hence, any BJP leader’s voice becomes null and void because our past experience suggests that BJP is not above RSS.
Any guess why RSS don’t want GST Bill to become legislation?
Because once the GST Bill becomes legislation, it would help the Congress party more than the BJP.
Then why Congress party is adamant on its three suggested changes in the bill?
It’s not that we are adamant on the three changes that we have sought in the current GST Bill. Actually, it would harm the national economy if it is passed in current format and we put national interest above the party interest. That’s why we want these three changes in current format of the GST Bill. And our report says that BJP is not going to put GST Bill in Rajya Sabha.
May be it is because of the flipside of GST, which brings slowdown in national economy for near one and half to two years after its implementation and BJP don’t want to go into 2019 elections I defensive mode?
All these talks are speculative because I have consulted with various economists and none of them are quite sure about the aftermath of GST legislation after implementation. They could only assure that GST is good for the national economy but not in current format.
So, we can expect another parliamentary wash out?
No. It’s a perception created by Modijee that Congress party is an obstructionist. Since, the Modi government has nothing to talk because it has failed miserably as lawmaker in last one and half years in office. Our Prime Minister is giving excuses, which is not supposed from him. He is a Prime Minister and its job of the government to ensure smooth function of the parliament. We are doing our job as an opposition that the people of India gave us in 2014.
Do you think you have succeeded in meeting your objective by stalling the parliamentary proceedings in consecutive two sessions?
We wanted to put in public domain that Modijee had made fake promise when he said to the people of India “Na Khaunga Na Khane Doonga.” We sought resignation from Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje in Lalit Modi case, Shivraj Singh Chauhan for his role in Vyapam. As an opposition party, we did what we were supposed to do because the government was not ready to accept there was a scam. So, we stalled the parliamentary proceedings to make the nation know that Modijee had made fake promise because he tried to safeguard the BJP leaders who had involvement in various scams.
You mean people would appreciate your performance in coming five state elections?
Look, in five state elections, we are major player in Assam, Kerala and Puducherry. In West Bengal and Tamil Nadu we are marginal players and we would like to have an alliance partner. Talks are going on, if things materialize we would go for alliance otherwise we don’t have any problem in going solo in Tamil Nadu and West Bengal.
Left party has been crying for alliance with the Congress party in West Bengal.
In west Bengal, we would go with the sentiments of our party workers and accordingly decision would be taken.
In Assam, your election strategist Himanta Biswa Sharma has switched to BJP. Do you think it would affect Congress performance in coming assembly election?
I don’t think so. Actually, the local party workers are of the opinion that it’s good Himanta has left the party. So, worker’s mood is upbeat in Assam and we are expecting to repeat our previous electoral performances in Assam.
You have an image that you don’t entertain bargainers, especially into the Congress party. But, you gave baton to Captain Amrinder Singh in Punjab who also went rebellious like Himanta in Assam for not making him CM candidate?
It’s not correct to see both Himanta and Captain through same specs. There is huge difference between Captain Amrinder Singh and Himanta. (Captain Amrinder never talked about vindicating the Congress party. He always suggested that he is the best suitable candidate for the party in Punjab as he had most support and connect at the grass root level.)
People of J&K are in limbo over the government formation. How do you look at this deadlock?
The PDP-BJP alliance was most unnatural alliance because both are two different sides of the same coin. The coalition government failed to meet the expectations of the people as neither Jammu nor Kashmir people are feeling satisfied with their performance. And both coalition parties have sensed that dissatisfaction. Let’s see what they are going to decide.
Will the Congress party support PDP led government if they dump BJP?
It’s hypothetical, but I must assure that Congress party is a bridge to peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Both central and state government has wasted all the good work that UPA-1 and UPA-2 government did in last ten years.
Coming back to your question, our ground report suggests that both PDP and BJP would lose heavily if the mid-term elections take place today in Jammu and Kashmir. So, neither PDP nor BJP would take any decision that leads to mid-term election because Congress and national Conference would be the major beneficiary in that mid-term poll.