NDA blinks, reaches out to
February 18, 2015
The government has
called an all-party meeting on 22 February to break the deadlock
in Parliament that has derailed its legislative agenda.
government has also reached out to the Congress to seek its
support for the passage of key legislation like an amendment to
the insurance law to raise the foreign investment limit in joint
ventures to 49% from 26%.
The budget session
of Parliament, typically the longest, is set to commence on 23
While the Bharatiya
Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a
majority in the Lok Sabha, it is outnumbered in the Rajya Sabha.
Consequently, like in the case of insurance, it has been denied
legislative approval for a number of crucial measures.
If the government
succeeds in winning over the opposition, it would lead to the
passage of key legislation. Not only would it boost investor
sentiment, it would also reinforce the reformist credentials of
?There are six
different ordinances that need to be passed in the budget
session. We are confident that the government will be able to
push its reform agenda. We have started discussion with the
Congress party already and hope to get its support,? said a
senior cabinet minister on condition of anonymity.
?It is the right of
the opposition parties to oppose some of the moves of the
government and the government is aware of the position of the
political parties, but opposition parties should not disrupt the
functioning of the Parliament and they should let the House
function,? the minister said.
maintained that it was yet to discuss the possibility of calling
a joint session of Parliament as an alternative to obtain
passage of bills that have been held up.
humiliating defeat suffered in the elections to the Delhi
assembly, the BJP seems to have lost some of the political
advantage it had gained after it won the 16th general election
and four assembly elections that followed. This, too, will force
the government to be more amenable to seeking a dialogue to
resolve the stalemate in Parliament.
The move to hold
result-oriented discussions with the Congress leadership is
significant because the government lacks a majority in the Rajya
Sabha. The NDA has only 57 members on its side in the House with
a total strength of 245 MPs.
Senior ministers in
the government elaborated that they were concerned about the
lack of time in the first half of the budget session when the
government wants to get most of the bills passed.
?There are only four
working days in the first half of the budget session because
there will be President?s address, debate on the budget, railway
budget which will take most of the time. If the opposition
parties disrupt the remaining time then most of the crucial
bills will not get passed in the first half of the budget
session. It is important that Parliament functions and there are
no disruptions,? the minister cited above said.
The government needs
to get crucial bills passed in the budget session to replace
ordinances it has promulgated. These ordinances, including those
on the insurance sector, land acquisition and coal block
allocations, will lapse and will have to be repromulgated in the
absence of parliamentary passage for the legislation.
Securing passage for
the bills would help send out a strong signal to foreign and
domestic investors that the government is firm on its commitment
to push through its reform agenda.
The top bills on the
government?s agenda deal with land acquisition, foreign
investment in the insurance sector, mines and minerals, coal
blocks, and the citizenship act.
Some critics have
charged the government with bypassing Parliament by opting for
the ordinance route.
?The government had
passed these ordinances because it wants to send a strong
message that the country cannot wait for major economic
reforms,? said a second minister who also spoke on condition of
anonymity. ?If we had not passed ordinances then everybody would
have questioned us that we are not serious. Why wait for bills
to be passed, why should we delay it further? Passing the
ordinances was a strong message that the country cannot wait any
meanwhile, warned that the government shouldn?t take its support
?We have certain
concerns and our stand on certain crucial issues, especially
attempts by the government to dilute the land acquisition bill,
will not change. The Congress party cannot allow dilution of the
land acquisition bill,? said P.C. Chacko, senior Congress
The government used
the ordinance route to amend the land acquisition bill to make
it easier for industries to acquire land.
government is also in dialogue with Odisha chief minister Naveen
Patnaik?s Biju Janata Dal, which has seven members in the Rajya
Sabha; the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, with 11
MPs; and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), which has four
At the same time the
government is hopeful that the Mayawati-led Bahujan Samaj Party
(BSP) would lend support to some of the crucial bills because it
has 10 MPs in the upper House who can tilt the balance in the
NDA?s favour; it has also reached out to the Samajwadi Party
(SP) that has 15 MPs in the Rajya Sabha.
?We are talking to
BSP, SP and DMK. We know that SP has joined hands with Janata
Dal (United) to oppose some of the bills. Political parties in a
democracy can be rivals but we are not enemies and there is no
reason why we should not seek help from political parties that
are opposed to BJP in various states,? the cabinet minister
cited in the first instance added.
say that holding discussion with opposition parties before the
Parliament session is the only way out of a potential logjam for
?This is the only
way forward to get crucial bills passed because the NDA is short
of numbers in Rajya Sabha. This IS also the logical step forward
because the only other way is to hold a joint sitting of
Parliament,? said A.K. Verma, a Kanpur-based political analyst
who is also Uttar Pradesh state coordinator of the Centre for
the Study of Developing Societies.
?Reaching out to
opposition parties is a positive development before the
Parliament session because it shows that government is trying to
reach an understanding with the opposition. If the government
doesn?t hold discussions with opposition parties then it will
face the same problem before every Parliament session,? Verma
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