With the government pushing key reform measures like insurance and coal block allocation, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said the country cannot wait even if one of the Houses of Parliament “waits indefinitely”.
Jaitley, a key strategist of BJP, suggested that the government may go to the extent of calling a joint session if the insurance bill is again blocked in the Upper House in the next session. The ruling party currently does not have the numbers in Rajya Sabha. “The (insurance) Ordinance demonstrates the firm commitment and determination of government to reforms. It also announces to the rest of the world, including investors, that this country can no longer wait even if one of the Houses waits indefinitely to take up its own agenda,” he said after a meeting of the Union Cabinet.
The Cabinet cleared the ordinance to increase FDI cap from 26 to 49% in the insurance sector and re- promulgated the ordinance to allow resumption of coal block allocation. Both the measures could not be taken up in Rajya Sabha in the Winter Session that concluded yesterday, marred by disruptions over religious conversion and other issues. Noting that “stalemate and obstructionism cannot go on in perpetuity”, Jaitley also suggested that the government could go to the extent of even convening a Joint Session of Parliament if the bill was stalled once again in the Budget Session.
“If Parliament is not allowed to function, the framers of the Constitution had then made provisions so that decision- making does not come to a halt,” he said. Without referring to joint session, Jaitley said, “There is still a mechanism” even if one of the Houses does not pass a measure. When again asked about the possibility of convening such a session, he said, “Why don’t you read the Constitution? … You seem to know the answer.”
Replying to a question as to what was the urgency to bring an ordinance a day after the Winter Session concluded, Jaitley said, “There has been too much delay. That is why, there is urgency.”
The opposition has been alleging that the government wants to push for reforms in the insurance sector ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to attend the Republic Day function here as the chief guest. Claiming that a “lot of good things” have happened since the Narendra Modi government assumed office in May, Jaitley said while BJP won two states in October, it has won the third in December and got its highest tally in another state (Jammu and Kashmir).
“The obstructionists (opposition) could not open their account. The Janata Parivar also could not open their account,” he said, noting that BJP would increase their presence in the Upper House. On a lighter vein and using the business journalists’ parlance, he said that “there is a creeping acquisition in the form of change of membership in the Upper House”, suggesting that BJP numbers in Rajya Sabha would go up with the victory in these states.-