New Delhi, July 26 (IANS) A battle of nerves over constitutional propriety has been sparked off between the NDA government and Congress over the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation bill, a private member draft legislation now pending in the Rajya Sabha, with the treasury bench on Tuesday raising the “money bill” clause to question the legality of the bill.
A section of BJP leaders apprehend that the “adamant” Congress stand on pushing the Andhra Pradesh bill in Rajya Sabha at this juncture seems only guided by the opposition party’s “political motives vis-a-vis Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill”.
The Congress has, however, denied the charge.
As the deadlock over draft legislation on Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, moved by Congress Rajya Sabha MP K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, has affected smooth transaction of business in the upper house, the government on Tuesday questioned the “constitutionality” of the same.
“Let us decide first the constitutionality of the bill itself. Under the law, it is only Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan who can decide whether a bill is a money bill or not,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar told reporters in his office chamber.
Kumar insisted that the Congress party should “respect” the Constitution.
“We also want welfare of Andhra Pradesh and welfare of Andhra lies in smooth functioning of the house,” he said.
Trying to find fault with Congress on alleged attempts to harm the interests of the states, including Andhra Pradesh, Kumar said, instead of insisting on a private member bill, which could not be taken up on Friday, the Congress party should support the Compensatory Afforestation Bill.
The private member bill could not be taken up on July 22 in the Upper House after ruckus started between Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Congress members Renuka Chowdhury and Jairam Ramesh.
“If you pass the Compensatory Afforestation Bill, Andhra Pradesh will get Rs 2,243 crore,” Ananth Kumat pointed out.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister sought to dismiss the issue of timing as raised by Congress on why the government has now raised the “money bill” bogey – having listed it for July 22 (last Friday) proceedings in the Rajya Sabha.
He maintained that only the Lok Sabha Speaker can take a final call on the matter.
The Congress party lashed out at the government for sabotaging the private member’s bill on Friday and termed the move as “dictatorial”.
“I have been in Parliament for 12 years but rarely have I seen ruling party disrupt a Private Member’s Bill,” Ramesh told reporters here.
“It is extraordinary. We wanted the bill to be taken up immediately and this issue is still very much up for debate but the government, I must say, behaved in a brutally dictatorial manner,” he alleged.
Ramesh denied the Andhra Pradesh issue has been raised to scuttle the GST, and alleged the ruling BJP lacked unanimity on the uniform tax bill.
“It was not intended to scuttle the GST Bill because if the government is so confident about the GST Bill, why is it reluctant to bring the GST Bill? When it comes to the crunch, the BJP government is unwilling to take the final step and I have been saying so for two years,” Ramesh claimed, adding that even within the BJP a section does not want the GST as some of them “are deeply uncertain” about its inflationary consequences.
But a Trinamool Congress source maintained that the “battle of wits” between Congress and the BJP is not surprising.
“We do not see Congress very keen to hand over the credit of GST to BJP and the Narendra Modi government especially when the relationship between the top leadership of the government and the Congress party is hardly good,” a senior Trinamoool MP in Rajya Sabha told IANS.
Congress leader Ramesh also maintained that the private member’s bill is in the larger interest of Andhra Pradesh.
“It’s a very simple bill. We want to implement the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act 2014 and implement former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s assurance of 20th February 2014 to grant Special Category Status to Andhra Pradesh for a period of five years,” he said.
Meanwhile, N. Chandrababu Naidu, chief of Telugu Desam Party (TDP), a constituent of the ruling NDA, on Tuesday said at Vijaywada that all parties have “responsibilities” towards Andhra Pradesh and thus should support the bill.
Among regional parties, Samajwadi Party and Communist Party of India (Marxist) are likely to support the bill if taken up for consideration and passage.
However, as the private member bill could not be taken up on Friday – the day it was listed – it can be taken up again only after Chairman of Rajya Sabha Hamid Ansari and the Leader of the House (Finance Minister Arun Jaitley) jointly agree for tabling it again, officials said.
On Monday, Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma had threatened that his party “will not discuss anything” unless the Andhra Pradesh bill is discussed.