Govt plans way around Rajya
January 02, 2015
Govt to introduce
legislation in Lok Sabha first, call a joint sitting of
Parliament if it gets stuck in Rajya Sabha
To overcome its numerical disadvantage in the Rajya Sabha, the
government plans to introduce every bill in the Lok Sabha and
eventually call a joint sitting of Parliament to get it cleared
if the legislation is stonewalled in the upper House, where
opposition parties have a majority.
Two ministers separately confirmed the strategy, which has been
adopted after some key bills were stalled in the Rajya Sabha in
the winter session that ended in December. Both ministers
?Now that the insurance bill has been promulgated through an
ordinance, the government can re-introduce the bill in the Lok
Sabha, where it can get the bill passed due to its majority in
the lower House. It can then convene a joint sitting of
Parliament to get the bill passed if the bill gets stuck in the
Rajya Sabha,? one of the ministers said.
According to parliamentary rules, a joint sitting of Parliament
can be convened in two circumstances?in case the Lok Sabha
passes a bill and the Rajya Sabha defeats it, or if the upper
House sends it back to the lower House suggesting amendments the
latter disagrees with.
The National Democratic Alliance has a commanding majority in
the 543-member Lok Sabha with 334 seats, but is in a minority in
the 245-seat Rajya Sabha, occupying just 57.
Its inability to win Rajya Sabha approval for key legislation
forced the government to use executive powers and promulgate
ordinances to raise the foreign investment cap in insurance to
49% from 26% and to move ahead with the reallocation and auction
of cancelled coal mines. It also passed an ordinance introducing
changes in the law for companies to acquire land.
Ordinances are not a permanent solution because they eventually
have to be ratified by Parliament, making a joint sitting the
best bet for the government to push through bills likely to be
stymied by opposition parties acting in concert in the Rajya
Sabha. In a joint sitting, the NDA would have a numerical
Analysts say the NDA has shown a lack of skill in parliamentary
floor management to get its legislative agenda cleared.
?During the earlier NDA regime (1998-2004), the configuration of
the ruling parties and the sheer width of the NDA allies gave
the manoeuvring room for the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) to
manage the floor and the opposition parties. Right now, the BJP
is clearly lacking the expertise of political management,? said
Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.
?Another factor, which is adding to it, is the BJP leaving its
allies alone and aggressively going into the state elections.
Opposition parties expect more subtleness in such an approach
and so they are reciprocating reactively,? he added.
In state elections in Maharashtra in October, the BJP broke up
with its ally of 25 years? standing, the Shiv Sena. They
reconciled subsequently. It also broke up with its ally in
Haryana, the Haryana Janhit Congress. In both elections, the BJP
formed the governments.
The BJP?s win in the
April-May general elections, where it won 282 out of the 543
seats, pushed the Congress into a marginal role with 44 seats.
The result also saw a near wipeout of regional parties in Bihar
and Uttar Pradesh?the Bahujan Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party,
Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Janata Dal (United)?which have come
closer to oppose the BJP.
The passage of the insurance and coal sector legislation were
blocked in the Rajya Sabha after the opposition disrupted
proceedings over the issue of religious conversions; the
government did not introduce the proposed amendments to the land
bill in Parliament.
The ordinance to facilitate the auction of coal mines may have
been necessary in the light of a deadline set by the Supreme
Court, but opinion is divided over the need for use of executive
powers for raising the foreign investment limit in insurance and
to effect changes in the land acquisition Act.
The government plans to auction 101 coals fields in the next few
months after the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of 204
blocks, including 42 operational mines, in September.
Foreign investors will not take investment decisions based on an
ordinance, said S.M. Sundaram, a partner and chief financial
officer at Baring Private Equity Partners India.
?When substantive investments are involved, foreign investors
will wait for some concrete action by the government that is
backed by legislative intent rather than just an ordinance that
will eventually need to be constituted into a law,? he said. ?So
far the intent of the government is in the right direction but
more needs to be done on the ground.?
The insurance ordinance will enable foreign companies to raise
their stake in Indian insurance joint ventures. Since the
ordinance will have to be legislated, companies may wait for the
passage of the bill in Parliament for greater certainty.
The proposed changes in the land law will make it easier to
acquire land in five key sectors including defence,
infrastructure, power and affordable housing.
According to Mrug, while clearing legislation through ordinances
reduces the government?s credibility, it also sends across a
positive message that it is determined to push through the
reforms. ?The larger message which goes out is that they are not
in control and this is something that hurts the business
sentiment,? he said.
This news can also be viewed at: