It is the government's mistake the GST Bill is stuck in RS: Mallikarjun Kharge

Mallikarjun Kharge
Leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, tells Kavita Chowdhury the government should make an effort to meet the opposition halfway. Edited excerpts:

What are the priorities for the Congress party in the coming winter session?

It has already been decided that the first two days will be dedicated to paying tribute to B R Ambedkar. There are several issues that we think are important and need to be taken up, most important of which are the rising levels of intolerance, high prices, drought and floods which have affected large parts of the country, and then there is atrocities on Dalits.

The government is keen to get the Goods and Services tax (GST) Bill passed. Will the Congress cooperate with the government?

Let us see how they negotiate with us on it. Officially, they have not had any discussions on the Bill with the opposition parties; it is for the government to take a call. It is their mistake that the Bill is stuck in the Rajya Sabha. When we insisted in the Lok Sabha that the concerns raised by us be resolved, they disregarded it and got it passed through brute majority. The government could have discussed with leaders of both Houses and with other opposition parties and they could have made compromises. Instead, they tried to divide the opposition. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) thought they will win Bihar and they will be buoyed by it; however, the people of Bihar have put a full stop on their ambitions. There's an important lesson for the government to take from this: Initial success or power should not make one arrogant, one should be humble at all times.

JD(U) and CPI(M) have already made it clear they want the intolerance issue to be discussed in threadbare and have moved notices. What is the Congress strategy on this?

Our chief whip in the Lok Sabha (Jyotiraditya Scindia) has already given a notice for discussion on intolerance. The prime minister should respond, he talks a lot outside the country but not on these issues within the country. We are ready to cooperate with the government in the interest of the country. After all it's the responsibility, of the government, to take the opposition along and to run the House smoothly. We are not obstructionist.

The finance minister has accused the Congress of stalling Parliament:

He has always been talking like that. They should learn to respect their opponents. One should question what the BJP did in Parliament in the second term of the UPA government. Who stopped the GST from being passed, who delayed the food security Bill and the Right to Education law? It is better that they not preach sermons to others; they don't have the moral right to lecture us.

Will the Congress work towards opposition unity in Parliament in the coming session?

We will seek the support of all opposition political parties and ask for their cooperation. It has to be a collective effort and no party is strong enough on its own to demand accountability from the government. We want to proceed unitedly with all opposition parties.

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