Narendra Modi seeks opposition support in Rajya Sabha

Live Mint, November 25, 2014

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

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought the cooperation of opposition parties to ensure passage of crucial legislation in the month-long winter session of Parliament that started on Monday.

Modi?s appeal came a day after consensus proved elusive at an all-party meeting that discussed the agenda of the Parliament, where the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has a sizeable majority in the Lok Sabha but lacks sufficient numbers to push through draft laws in the Rajya Sabha.

?People of the country have given us responsibility to run the government, but they have also given the responsibility to all those sitting in Parliament to run the country,? Modi told reporters. ?I have confidence that a lot of good work for the betterment of the people will be done with a cool mind and in a cool atmosphere. I hope this session will be fruitful and result-oriented.?

The Samajwadi Party, Janata Dal (United), Communist Party of India (Marxist), Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Trinamool Congress, which together have 46 members in the 245-seat Rajya Sabha, have opposed a Bill that seeks to increase limit on foreign investment in insurance joint ventures to 49% from 26%.

The Shiv Sena, BJP?s ally at the Centre, also indicated that it will oppose the Bill ?if amendments to help employees and farmers are not brought in,? said party spokesman Arvind Sawant. The Congress party, with 67 seats in the Rajya Sabha, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) with 14, said on the first day that they will first discuss the proposed amendments to the insurance law in a select committee before deciding whether or not to support the legislation.

?In the last session, the positive role of the opposition had resulted in good work,? Modi said. ?I?m hopeful this time too we will experience the same.? Although the Congress has supported the insurance bill, it wants to wait for the final meeting of the Rajya Sabha select committee before firming up its stand. ?BSP will not try to block the insurance bill unnecessarily. The party will give its views in the select committee of Rajya Sabha,? BSP chief Mayawati told reporters outside the Parliament.

NDA has only 56 members in the upper house. BJP leaders are worried that a united opposition could thwart the passage of crucial legislation intended to push economic reforms. Most opposition parties, including the Congress party, are against any changes the land acquisition law and the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS). The government plans to take up the Labour Laws (Exemption from Furnishing Returns and Maintaining Registers by certain Establishments) Amendment Bill, 2011 and the Apprentices (Amendment) Bill, 2014 in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday for consideration and passage by the upper house.

Among the 67 Bills pending in Parliament, the government had been hoping to push for the passage of amendments to the Land Acquisition Bill and changes to MGNREGS, the flagship scheme of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA), in the winter session. MGNREGS assures one member of every rural family 100 days of employment in a year.

Other pending legislation includes amendments to the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, the Motor Vehicles Act, the Negotiable Instruments Act, the Factories Act and The Apprenticeship Act as well as a law to replace the ordinance on coal mines issued in October that will make way for the auction of the coal mines.

Political analysts said Modi?s appeal was directed as much at partners of the BJP in the NDA as at the opposition. ?The statement made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not just for the opposition parties…he is also making a statement to the BJP and members of the NDA that they are expected to cooperate when the government announces tough measures and not behave like opposition parties within the ruling coalition,? said Jai Mrug, a Mumbai-based political analyst.

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