PM Modi Invites Sonia Gandhi, Manmohan Singh to 'Chai Pe Charcha'
New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has invited his predecessor Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi for discussions over tea, in what is being seen as an attempt to unlock the Goods and Services Tax or GST, the government's most ambitious tax reform.
This will be the first face-to-face meeting between the prime minister and Sonia Gandhi since his BJP won a landslide victory in the national election last year, ending the Congress-led UPA's 10-year-rule. Rahul Gandhi, the Congress party's number two leader, has not been invited to the meeting that was immediately dubbed "chai pe charcha" by many.
"This meeting is happening after public pressure," Mr Gandhi said.
"The PM has requested Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh to join over tea. We hope for a fruitful meeting," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu told reporters before the day's Parliament sitting.
The Congress has repeatedly accused the government of failing to bring the opposition on board on what is being billed as the biggest tax reform since independence.
Yesterday, speaking exclusively to NDTV, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi highlighted three issues on GST that they said were non-negotiable - the 1% tax for manufacturers, the constitutional cap of 18 percent for GST rate and an independent dispute resolution mechanism for GST.
"Unless the government responds on this we will not compromise," they said, countering Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's assertion that he had spoken to every Congress leader on the bill.
Mr Jaitley said later: "We have absolutely no hesitation even at the level of Prime Minister. We have never had in it in the past, we don't have it (now). He is willing to speak to everyone."
The government needs the Congress' support to push the bill through the Rajya Sabha or Upper House, where it is in a minority.
It wants to implement GST by April 2016, but the deadline may be missed if Parliament does not pass the bill in the winter session.
The GST will create a single market in India after doing away with state levies and is expected to boost the economy.