Joint session of Parliament likely to keep ordinance factory running

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Times of India, December 31, 2014

The Modi government seems determined to make full use of its large majority in the Lok Sabha as a joint session of Parliament looks a distinct possibility with Congress strongly opposing the land acquisition ordinance.

Congress’s criticism of the consent and the social impact assessment clauses being scrapped for certain projects on the grounds that this will encourage forcible acquisition indicates serious differences with the government.

Unlike in the case of the ordinance to increase FDI limit in insurance, there is no meeting of minds over the government’s decision to dilute the land bill despite Congress-ruled states also being in sync with the Centre.

Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Tuesday hit back at the opposition blaming the Congress for its “obstructionist” attitude, indicating a political divide that may not be bridged in a hurry.

There is a strong chance that the government will have to opt for a joint session to overcome its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha to pass a clutch of bills critical to the NDA’s governance agenda.

Once the Lok Sabha passes the bills, the government can seek a vote in the upper House and if the legislations fail the floor test, the road to a joint session would be cleared.

Government managers have been contemplating bunching bills to hike FDI in insurance, auctioning of coal blocks and land acquisition for passage by a vote in a joint session of the two Houses.

If needed, a joint session could be called during a weekend in the Budget session that gets underway in February next year and concludes after a four-week recess in May.

There is, of course, a possibility that the opposition unity witnessed in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session over the politically sensitive issue of conversions may not persist in the Budget session.

Usually, government managers are well equipped to woo opposition groups, particularly smaller parties, to ensure the passage of official business. Though Hindutva issues unite the Opposition, in other circumstances floor management should not be as challenging.

The joint session option, however, is not just a pressure tactic, said government sources. The government was aware that it must show progress on reform legislation and so will not put up with another parliamentary blockade.

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