With a packed central hall and massive media frenzy outside, Parliament witnessed scenes rarely seen at midnight as it came alive to roll out the Goods and Services Tax. It concluded with impromptu ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’ chants from MPs assembled at the central Hall of Parliament moments after the GST was ushered in.
Lawmakers started trickling in as early as 9.30 pm, a good one and a half hours before the event, to Parliament which wore a festive look — illuminated for the unusual midnight sitting. Inside, the central hall wore a new look with fresh carpets, freshly polished teak furniture and refurbished seats. The building was freshly painted.
Former Tata Group chairman Ratan Tata was among those present. He sat in the middle rows with former West Bengal Finance Minister Asim Dasgupta, a veteran Communist leader, who headed the empowered group of state finance ministers formed to usher in VAT, a precursor to GST.
Other prominent leaders associated with the evolution of GST — former finance minister Yashwant Sinha, former finance secretary Vijay Kelkar, former Kerala finance minister KM Mani — were in attendance along with members of the existing GST council. RBI Governor Urjit Patel, too, was in attendance. He was seen sitting with economist and Rajya Sabha member Narendra Jadhav, an ex-chief economist at the RBI. Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha, too, was in attendance.
Inside, NCP’s Sharad Pawar sat on the front row with BJP veteran L K Advani and BJP president Amit Shah. Samajwadi party’s Ramgopal Yadav, who found a place in the back, was ushered to the front row by Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi to the front rows to sit with AIADMK representatives.
Likewise, leaders of other non-NDA parties — BJD, JDU, TRS — were seated in the front rows. Members of the BSP, too, were seen sitting in the back rows. Their attendance, in a way, took the sting out of Congress, Left and Trinamool Congress’ boycott of the event with other smaller opposition parties. However, the members of these non-NDA parties were not seen joining the ruling NDA members in thumping the desks during the speeches.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav was seen being escorted out by Union minister Rajiv Pratap Rudy. He seemed to be feeling uneasy, but he returned to his seat after some time.
Given the time limit to usher in the GST at 12 midnight, PM Narendra Modi appeared to regulate the flow of his oratory, while President Pranab Mukherjee rushed to finish his speech in time to meet the deadline.
As MPs walked in smiling and waving, a lone Congress MP Ananda Bhaskar Rapolu sat on a dharna in front of the Gandhi statue outside demanding immediate review and reversal of GST proposals on handloom and powerloom raw materials and products.