Government-opposition stalemate forcing bills to face select panels? scrutiny

The Economic Times, December 26, 2015

The Modi government may have come to power with a thumping majority, but it is finding it tough to get any legislation passed. Parliamentary data reveal theBJP regime has been forced to submit an unprecedented number of legislations to scrutiny by select committees.

Cornered by an aggressive Opposition in Parliament, especially in the Rajya Sabha where the ruling coalition doesn’t have the majority, the government has been forced to give in to the demand of referring almost every contentious Bill to a select committee – an ad hoc panel of MPs formed to deal with a specific issue. Comparative data of the 15th and 16th Lok Sabha show that the Modi government referred six Bills to select committees in its first 18 months, compared with four in the entire five-year period of the UPA-II.

Experts see this as a failure of the BJP government to have a working relationship with the Opposition. “It doesn’t send the right message,” said Sanjay Kumar, director at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies. “It shows the government’s failure to build a working relationship with the Opposition. It just shows that to end the impasse, the government is sending everything to a select committee. The only way out is to take the Opposition in confidence and make an attempt before the session to build consensus over issues. The onus is on the government.”

Even if the trend of sending Bills to such committees exposes the government’s helplessness in the face of Opposition’s relentless attacks, the Congress says the BJP is trying to subvert parliamentary democracy. “This is a deliberate move by the Modi government to undermine the standing committee system, especially when the chairman belongs to the Congress, like in the case of standing committee for finance,” senior Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Jairam Ramesh said, suggesting that the government should refer such matters to the permanent standing committees instead of the ad hoc select committees.

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