New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday reached out to the opposition to let parliament function smoothly, even as the Congress said it had an open mind on the contentious GST bill.
Modi's appeal came at an all-party meeting, a day ahead of the start of parliament's winter session on Thursday. The ruling BJP-led NDA reiterated the appeal at an evening meeting of the ruling alliance.
The prime minister made it clear that the government was keen to pass the Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, saying it was in national interest.
While the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) is in majority in the Lok Sabha, it lacks the legislative muscle to push through legislations in the Rajya Sabha where the opposition parties have the numbers.
With the monsoon session washed out due to acrimony between the treasury and opposition benches, the government on Wednesday sought cooperation of all parties to ensure a smooth winter session of parliament.
Modi told the all-party meet that all political parties needed to work together to meet the expectations of the people.
"(There is a) need for all parties to work together to enable the parliament to function to the expectations of the people," a spokesperson quoted him as saying.
Modi made a pitch for the GST, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu told reporters.
Modi said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley would allay the doubts on the GST legislation.
The prime minister made a similar appeal in the evening at a meeting attended by leaders of his Bharatiya Janata Party and its allies, and said the government was ready to discuss all issues.
The Congress said it had an open mind on GST.
"For us, each bill or legislation is important. With regard to GST, we have made it clear the GST was our bill... We are ready for discussion. We have genuine concerns and that should be taken on board," party leader Ghulam Nabi Azad told the media.
In Bengaluru, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi said his party "strongly believed" in the bill and wanted the government to engage with the opposition.
"We strongly believe in GST. There are couple of things in GST bill we want changed. We want a cap on amount of tax that can be charged.
"We are not trying to stall parliament. We want a GST that suits the country," he said.
Azad said the opposition also wanted to discuss intolerance, price rise, farmers' plight, incidents of communal disharmony and drought, besides issues of women safety, corruption and child labour.
"The opposition will be cooperating with the government but it is for the government to accommodate the viewpoints of the opposition," he said.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari had admitted a motion to discuss rising incidents of religious intolerance in the country.
Janata Dal-United leader Sharad Yadav vowed to raise the issue of India-Nepal relations.
Seen as the key to facilitating industrial growth and improving the business climate, the GST bill needs to be passed by two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament and by the legislatures of half the states to become law. It is now stuck in the Rajya Sabha.
While GST remains the priority for the government, which wanted it implemented by April 2016, there are 38 bills and ordinances the government has listed for the winter session.