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Opposition moving the goalposts, coming up with new obstructions every day: Ananth Kumar

Most of the parties have submitted to the speaker and given notices under Rule 193 and have spoken to us (government) also, saying they want a debate (without voting), said Ananth Kumar.

Updated: Dec 05, 2016, 01.18 AM IST
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GST bill has first to come through GST council and via finance ministry. I cannot just now predict on the shape of the bill, colour of the bills, said Ananth Kumar.
GST bill has first to come through GST council and via finance ministry. I cannot just now predict on the shape of the bill, colour of the bills, said Ananth Kumar.
Ananth Kumar has kept a low profile on his beat, letting his senior party colleagues take the lead on occasions as he has stayed almost on the margins, but he says he works hard behind the scenes. In a rare interview to Ravish Tiwari and Rakesh Mohan Chaturvedi, he decodes the Opposition stand while expressing hopes of resolving the deadlock in Parliament. Excerpts:

Eleven out of 13 days of the winter session have been washed out. How concerned is the government?
If somebody is most concerned about the winter session, it is the government. It is our belief and commitment that Parliament is the highest panchayat and it should discuss and debate all the important issues. Unfortunately, Congress and opposition parties led by it are blindfolded. I want to use this word: ‘blindfolded’. They do not have strategy. They do not know where they are going. Every day they are coming out with a new obstruction in the House.

Is the Congress united, or is it acting under instructions from its top leaders?
It is a very good question, but address is wrong. It can be a good investigative story… I want to qualify my “blindfolded” remark. Whether Congress and opposition are blindfolded or only the top leadership of the Congress is blindfolded, that is also a matter of concern.

How do you plan to deal with the opposition during the remaining 11 days?
We are telling them that we are ready to untie the blindfold to let them see the light of day. It is so clear that people across the country are supporting demonetisation. They welcome this crusade against corruption and black money and terrorism. Results of (local bodies’) elections – even the latest from Rajasthan – is the writing on the wall.

The leader of the opposition in Rajya Sabha has stressed it is not Congress alone, but 17 parties are united on recall…
The wise men (opposition) in Rajya Sabha seem to be more confused because they started the debate on day one and after one day, there was an afterthought. For a brief while they toyed with the idea of a JPC (joint parliamentary committee) and an apology (from the PM) and such things and held up the House. Then later, when they thought that the point they were making had no credibility and there was public acceptance, they demanded that Modiji should be there. Modiji came and sat before and after lunch as well and therefore their demand of PM should be there and he should intervene has been taken care of. PM will intervene in both the Houses and (FM) Arunji will reply. Now everyday they are changing the goalposts for debate.

The opposition is citing the August 2013 instance, when the BJP-led opposition forced PM Manmohan Singh to sit through the twoday debate on 2G allocation...
(There is) No parallel, sir. There was a CAG report. The whole thing was before the SC. And there was an SIT (special investigating team) under the monitoring of SC. Prima facie (case) had been established. What are they comparing? The moot point is that this (demonetisation) is the boldest decision ever taken by any government for eradicating black money, corruption, fake currency and incidental extremism and terrorism. The whole country has welcomed it. They have issues about implementation, the difficulties faced by the people. They definitely can have a discussion. In Lok Sabha they are demanding adjournment under Rule 56. The rule is that matters of urgent public importance should take precedence over other business. According to them, if at all, urgency started on November 9 and today it is December 3. You did not discuss such an urgent matter since then. You stick to technicalities. Every day I am contacting them during meeting of presiding officers, business advisory committee, informally and also telephonically. Please discuss and raise all your issues.

Why is the government reluctant to go in for voting when it has an overwhelming majority in Lok Sabha?
This matter should not be voted on because when you say it is a crusade against corruption, black money and fake currency, do you want to divide the House into for and against. There should be one voice. Why am I saying they are blindfolded? If they were not blindfolded, they would not have gone other way in Rajya Sabha. That means they are speaking in two different voices. In Rajya Sabha, under no voting rule, we have the debate but raise issues like JPC, apology, PM should be present and he should intervene, to hold up the House. In Lok Sabha, they started with adjournment motion then went to Rule 184 (voting rule), then to non-issues like Indigo flight (carrying Mamata Banerjee) and dip into a situation to drag the army’s routine exercises into political discourse. Therefore, I am telling they are not at all clear and therefore through ET my request to my friends in the opposition – Congress and camp followers of Congress – they should see the light of day and start debate and discussion.

Why, in your opinion, is the opposition politicising demonetisation?
They think, they are trying to fish in troubled waters. But, unfortunately, the water is not troubled. A huge, huge – 95% – of people are with the decision because people want a clean, transparent and vibrant economy. And they have a great belief in the commitment, vision and dedication of PM Modi. They are ready to take some hardships.

How many of the 36 parties in Lok Sabha want debate under voting provision?
Most of the parties have submitted to the speaker and given notices under Rule 193 and have spoken to us (government) also, saying they want a debate (without voting).

Which are these parties?
I won’t go further into details as it is a prerogative of the chair. But the sense of the majority is that they want debate.

Are you rejecting Congress’ claim that the entire opposition is united?
I do not want to tread into that controversy. But at the same time, all of us know that everyone wants debate. And only a couple of parties are insisting on this motion…

Is the session headed for a washout?
I don’t think so. We are committed to conducting the House. Most important bills like maternity benefit, on HIV AIDS, on employees’ compensation and on welfare of persons with disabilities, are pending. Therefore, we have listed them on the top of agenda in both the Houses. I personally appealed to both the leaders – Ghulam Nabi Azad and (Mallikarjun) Khargeji – that we are ready for debate and discussion on demonetisation. No questions, even if we have to suspend the Question Hour. From 11 am on Monday we are ready for debate. At the same time, they should allow these bills – these are humanitarian bills.

What have you offered to the opposition as a way out?
I only told them that these are bills which are humanitarian bills which concern huge sections of population.

Is GST also on the agenda?
Supplementary demand for grants and GST are definitely on the agenda.

Is it going to be carried the Aadhaar way, as a money bill?
That bill has first to come through GST council and via finance ministry. I cannot just now predict on the shape of the bill, colour of the bills.

Is there a danger of the entire GST rollout going haywire?
I have hope. I am an optimist. I think that taxation bill has been passed (in LS) and we also offered them that the taxation bill had all the features of the main (demonetisation) debate. So you debate on that and vote on that. Now, in Lok Sabha, despite continuous request from business advisory committee to the floor of the House they tried to hold it up. But, in Rajya Sabha, I think they have an open mind to debate it. This is the dichotomy. Because of this dichotomy, the Parliamentary debate is scuttled.

The unifying feature is that both Houses are disrupted…
It always gets disrupted when people do not behave logically, especially the Opposition. It is their responsibility and they owe this duty to the people that when such a huge economic reform has come, to tell the people through Parliament that this is their view.

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