Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday told Parliament that the current architecture of goods and services tax (GST), including greater weighting to manufacturing states, was his brainchild, which he had suggested as chief minister of Gujarat to then finance minister Pranab Mukherjee, but eventually Arun Jaitley, the finance minister during his government’s previous term, included it into the law.
Replying to the discussion on the motion of thanks to the President’s address, the PM sought to defend the numerous amendments to GST, and said any reform of such magnitude should have space for a corrective mechanism. He said even the Constitution had been amended several times.
On the National Population Register (NPR), the PM defended the extended questionnaire. Contrary to recent statements by other ministers on the issue that the extended NPR questionnaire was voluntary, Modi said “small changes” were part of any normal administrative exercise of a government. The PM said data was needed, including on the contentious question on place of birth of the father of a respondent, to track increased migration and determine the respondent’s mother tongue.
Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said the PM was “misleading the House”. Later, Ramesh said the “cat was now out of the bag” with the PM himself indicating that none of the new NPR questions was “voluntary”.
The PM underlined the need for working together to make India a $5 trillion economy. He said the government had been able to maintain macroeconomic stability amid tough global environment. He also exhorted all members to give suggestions on ways to take advantage of opportunities thrown up by the current global economic situation.
In the Rajya Sabha, the Congress and most other opposition parties walked out to protest the PM using an “unparliamentary word” against them. Speaking in Hindi, the PM said the Opposition was indulging in falsehoods on the NPR issue. He said it was unconstitutional for state governments to pass resolutions against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the NPR.
While ignoring the Opposition’s initial protests, Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu said at the end of the PM’s speech that no unparliamentary word would go on the House’s records. Leader of Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the PM was resorting to falsehoods to malign the Opposition on the CAA issue. He said no Opposition party was against Hindus from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh being given citizenship of India. Congress MP Kumari Selja protested against the PM using a casteist slur in the context of the Opposition and the CAA.
With voting for the Delhi Assembly polls on Saturday, the PM spoke of his government legalising the national capital’s unauthorised colonies and construct its infrastructure. On economy, the PM sought the opposition’s suggestions on how best India can take advantage of the global economic situation.