With a section of the opposition parties yet to take a call on attending the special session for the midnight launch of the Goods and Services Tax, the government is learnt to have reached out to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh with an invitation to attend the midnight meeting of the GST Council to usher in the country's new tax regime.
According to the Times Of India, the special invitation to Singh was delivered by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, though the former PM has not made up his mind on attending the meeting yet.
The move appears to be an effort on part of the government to get the Congress on board to ensure a smooth launch of the historic tax reform which was originally scripted and brought to prominence by the erstwhile government.
This reaching out to the opposition also displays the intent of the government to avoid the backlash it received following its unilateral decision on demonetisation. The drastic November 8 decision to scrap 86 per cent of currency in circulation announced by PM Narendra Modi did not see the government make any attempt to get the opposition on board with it.
With the government choosing to sideline the opposition on such an important decision, the Congress as well as other opposition parties responded with severe criticism of the move, the fiercest among them by former PM Manmohan Singh. Addressing the Parliament, Singh described the government’s demonetisation decision as ‘organized loot and legalised plunder’.
Singh, in his Rajya Sabha speech, also said, "The decision to demonetise will cause grievous injury to the honest Indian who earns wages in cash. The dishonest black money hoarder will get away with a mere rap on the knuckles," he had said.
Another reason behind this attempted thaw in ties could be based on the fact that it was the Congress-led UPA which brought the legislation to Parliament and the government does not want to come across as one trying to take away the credit that the Congress deserves for this landmark reform. In doing so, the government would come across as magnanimous and fair.
The strategy to get Singh on board, therefore, is crucial to the government in ensuring a smooth rollout of the GST.
Meanwhile, a meeting of the opposition is scheduled on the morning of June 28, when the opposition's presidential candidate Meira Kumar files her nomination papers at 11am. In addition to making a show of solidarity for Kumar, leaders of the Congress, Left, NCP, Samajwadi Party, and RJD among others, the parties are also expected to confer with each other on whether to attend the session.
The TOI report said that after locking horns with the government over the presidential polls, there was intense lobbying underway within opposition parties to push it to a corner over its hurried GST implementation. Symbolic as it may be, but by refraining from attending the midnight launch of the GST, the opposition would come across as having registered its protest.