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Home / Politics / Policy /  Winter session of Parliament too headed for a washout

The winter session of Parliament may be headed for yet another washout with the opposition Congress finding a new reason to block proceedings in the upper House, thereby stalling the crucial economic reforms agenda of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government including the passage of the crucial goods and services tax (GST) law that will unify the Indian market.

Before the session began, it appeared that the government had managed to convince opposition parties, including the Congress, not to disrupt Parliament. But that was before the Delhi high court directed Congress president Sonia Gandhi, vice-president Rahul Gandhi and four others to appear before a lower court to answer charges of cheating and misappropriation of funds at the National Herald, a case brought by Bharatiya Janata Party politician Subramanian Swamy in 2012.

The Congress has claimed the case is a result of political vendetta although, as finance minister Arun Jaitley pointed out in a Facebook post, the Gandhis and others involved are not being investigated by any government agency. Swamy filed the case in his individual capacity, Jaitley explained, and now that it is before the courts, the Gandhis should fight it legally instead of disrupting Parliament.

The Congress has found allies in its efforts, the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress and the Sharad Yadav-led Janata Dal (United), or JD(U).

The ruling NDA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, where the Congress is the single largest party.

After a third consecutive day of disruptions in the Rajya Sabha, Prime Minister Narendra Modi hit back, saying the Congress was not only stalling the progress of the GST bill but also affecting the common man.

“People only talk about GST and Parliament but there are also several other measures for the poor that are pending in Parliament. The biggest threat to the democracy is from mantantra (whims and fancies) and moneytantra (money power)," Modi said at a forum organized by Dainik Jagran newspaper on Thursday.

“It is a matter of sorrow that the poor are not being able to get their rights due to Parliament not functioning."

Even as ministers agreed to discuss the National Herald issue on the floor of the House, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who belongs to the JD(U), came out in support of the Gandhis.

“It is the government’s responsibility to run Parliament. Its mandate is not to harass the opposition," Kumar told reporters in New Delhi.

The government doesn’t quite see it that way.

“The facts are clear. They (Congress) have acquired properties worth a huge amount without spending anything and they have used tax exempted income for a non-exempted purpose," Jaitley said in his post.

He added: “They have transferred the income of a political party to a real estate company. They have created huge taxable income in favour of the real estate company. The Government, so far, has not taken any punitive action. The enforcement directorate has not issued any notice to them. The Income Tax authorities will follow their own procedure."

At the heart of the issue is a loan assigned by Congress-owned Associated Journals Ltd, former publisher of the National Herald, to Young Indian Pvt. Ltd.

In his complaint, Swamy alleged that the party loaned 90 crore to Associated Journals and on 28 December 2010 it assigned this debt to Young Indian for 50 lakh. This, according to him, amounted to breach of trust, cheating, fraud and misappropriation of funds.

Srishti Gupta and PTI contributed to the story.

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