Key Bills: King size trouble awaits BJP in Rajya Sabha

The Hindu Business Line, November 24, 2014

Even with support of independents and smaller parties, the NDA will fall short of a majority

The Congress?s ambivalence coupled with the vehemence of the provincial parties put a question mark on key legislation, such as the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill and the one relating to the Goods and Services Tax, especially in the Upper House during the Winter Session of Parliament that commenced on Monday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi?s mention of the Opposition?s ?constructive? role belied the Government?s trepidation with regard to the fate of legislation pertaining to reforms in the insurance sector as well as the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill that aims to establish a real estate regulatory authority.

Reaching out to the Opposition, the PM said: ?In the last session, because of the Opposition, a lot of work was done. I hope this trend will continue in this session.?

The Government?s floor management will be tested in the Upper House where, including all allies, the NDA?s tally does not cross 54 seats.

The ruling party is hoping to rope in the NCP (six seats in the Rajya Sabha), the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with its 14 seats in the Upper House as well as the AIADMK which has 11 MPs. ?The floor will have to be managed on a Bill-to-Bill basis. We are not taking anyone?s support for granted,? said Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Even if the Government manages to enlist the support of all the nine independents, the AIADMK, BSP, NCP as well as smaller parties such as the INLD and the National Conference, its tally does not go beyond 112. It needs 116 seats to reach a majority.

Essentially, the Government badly needs the Congress, with its 67 MPs in the Upper House, to get critical pieces of legislation passed. From what senior leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said on Monday, it appeared as if the Congress is not willing to commit its support even to legislation it had birthed in its decade-long tenure.

?There are no blank cheques either in politics or policies. The GST, for instance, is entirely the Congress?s baby. But from the beginning, the most disruptive and delaying tactics were used by the BJP to stall the GST.

?The leader of the pack was the then Gujarat Chief Minister who opposed the Bill tooth and nail,? said Singhvi. ?The same,? he said, ?goes for the Insurance Bill.?

This sounded ominous especially considering the staunch opposition of the Trinamool Congress (12 MPs), the Janata Dal (United) with 12 MPs in the Upper House, the Samajwadi Party with its ten MPs and the Left block with two MPs of the CPI and nine of the CPI(M).

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