NDA buys time for itself on land, GST bills
Livemint, May 13,
under pressure from the opposition, was forced to defer its
plans to legislate land acquisition and goods and services tax (GST)
Both have been
referred to parliamentary committees.
While the GST bill
will be reviewed by a select committee of the Rajya Sabha, the
land acquisition bill will be scrutinized by 30-member joint
committee of Parliament.
The good news for
the government is that it has managed to buy some time to make a
fresh case for its new land law before the committee, in which
it will hold the majority voice.
At the same time,
the delay does impact the credibility of the Bharatiya Janata
Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) to push
reform initiatives requiring legislation. It also casts a cloud
on its ability to roll out the GST as promised on 1 April 2016.
government lobbied hard, even managing to extend the budget
session by three days, the opposition did not relent.
Narendra Modi has repeatedly backed the new law and even went to
the extent of admitting in a recent interview to Dainik Jagran
newspaper that the 2013 legislation approved with the backing of
the BJP was flawed.
?It would have been
impossible to start irrigation projects for farmers without the
amendments. It was after 120 years that there was discussion to
change the law but did we even spend 120 hours on the
discussion? The earlier bill was brought in a hurry. Almost all
chief ministers have told me that it needs to be amended,? Modi
had said in the interview.
The joint committee
will have 20 Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Lok Sabha and 10
MPs of Rajya Sabha, the Parliament was informed on Tuesday.
The Upper House will
also give names of the MPs who will be part of the joint
?The government is
ready to listen to suggestions of all political parties, chief
ministers and other stakeholders. We will also talk to farmer
unions and labour unions in the course of the meetings of the
committee. The suggestions of the joint committee will be part
of the bill. This bill is in the interest of the farmers, and it
is also important for the development of the country,? said
Chaudhary Birender Singh, Union minister of rural development,
Panchayati Raj, sanitation and drinking water, while moving the
motion to form the committee.
The Lok Sabha
unanimously adopted a motion to send the land bill to a joint
committee. Some of its members from the Lok Sabha include
Surendrajeet Singh Ahluwalia of BJP, Anandrao Adsul of the Shiv
Sena, Rajeev Satav of the Congress and Bhartruhari Mahtab of the
Biju Janata Dal (BJD). Explaining the provisions for a joint
committee, Subhash Kashyap, constitutional expert and former
secretary general of the Lok Sabha, said: ?A joint committee is
ad-hoc committee which is formed on a particular issue. The
committee has MPs of both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha in 2:1
proportion. There?ve been several instances in the past when a
joint committee has been formed; it is also called joint
parliamentary committee. Many of the standing committee of
Parliament are also joint committees since they have members of
both the Houses.?
However, for BJP, it
is a source of concern that some members of the NDA like
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD), the Shiv Sena and the Swabhimani
Paksha (SWP) have worries about the proposed land bill.
The Congress, which
was in two minds on joining the joint committee, finally came
around. The party in the past two months has rallied around the
issue of the land acquisition and farm distress. ?It took us two
long years to get the land bill, but the NDA government took
only a few days to kill it...we will not allow (passage of the
bill) here (in Parliament). If not, we will oppose it outside on
the street,? Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said in the
Lok Sabha earlier in the day while leading his party?s charge.
The Congress held a
mega rally in the national capital last month on the issue of
land acquisition and several leaders say the focus on opposing
the land bill has helped its chances of revival.
On the land issue
alone, Rahul Gandhi, in the past 20 days, visited Punjab and
Maharashtra and will travel to Telangana later this week.
Political analysts say the NDA is trying to ?buy time? to come
up with a political strategy to overcome its lack of numbers in
the Rajya Sabha.
?Prime Minister Modi
knows that his party doesn?t have the required numbers in the
Rajya Sabha so this bill cannot be passed. He has been meeting
many different regional leaders. Recently, he also met West
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. The formation of a joint
committee is only an attempt of Modi to buy time so that he can
win over the opposition leaders. Even if the BJP is unable to
win over the opposition, the party will try to divide the
opposition to pass the bill,? said Bidyut Chakrabarty, a New
Delhi-based political analyst and professor at Delhi University.
An opposition member
nominated to the joint committee maintained the government may
prevail in its intent and carry the committee with it.
government and the opposition parties on Tuesday also agreed to
refer the constitutional amendment bill on GST to a 21-member
select committee of the Rajya Sabha.
The committee will
submit its report on the last day of the first week of
Parliament?s monsoon session, reviving hopes for the timely
roll-out of GST.
The committee will
be headed by Bhupendra Yadav, a BJP MP and a party general
The members of major
political parties, including the BJP, SAD, Congress, Bahujan
Samaj Party, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Janata Dal (United), will
be represented in the committee.
After passing the
bill in the Lok Sabha, the government has faced problems in the
Upper House. The Congress, along with All India Anna Dravida
Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and Left parties, had insisted on a
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