Monsoon session may derail NDA’s reforms agenda
Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan calls an all-party meeting to persuade the opposition to allow at least some bills to be taken up in the remaining days
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New Delhi: The repeated disruptions in the first two weeks of the monsoon session of Parliament has not only blocked the economic agenda of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, but also made it the least productive session in the 14 months since the NDA came to power.
Annoyed by the logjam in both Houses of Parliament, Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan has called for an all-party meeting on Thursday to persuade the opposition to allow at least some bills to be taken up in the remaining days of the monsoon session.
Mahajan is also annoyed because opposition members have carried protest placards and tied black bands on their arms, which are not permitted under Parliament’s rules.
The Lok Sabha speaker has also warned opposition parties of strict action if they persist with unparliamentary forms of protest.
This is the first session in which the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led NDA has found itself on the backfoot since taking office in May 2014.
The opposition, led by the Congress, is demanding the resignation of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for interceding with British authorities to help former cricket administrator Lalit Modi, who is being investigated in India for financial irregularities in the Indian Premier League, or IPL, when he was heading it.
The opposition has also demanded the ouster of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over a scam related to student admissions in professional colleges and government job recruitments.
This is the first session of Parliament in which the NDA government has failed to push through a single piece of reforms legislation.
The Congress-led opposition remained at loggerheads with the government over the resignation of senior BJP leaders until Monday, followed by the adjournment of both Houses until Thursday to mourn the death of former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam.
In the process, the ambitious reforms legislation to roll out the goods and services tax (GST) with effect from 1 April 2016 and a proposed real estate law to protect the rights of consumers has been delayed.
Another contentious bill on land acquisition, which the Congress charges is designed to undermine the interests of farmers, is still being studied by a joint parliamentary committee.
“We were aware that land acquisition bill will face problems but the government had expected that at least GST and real estate bills will get passed. Let’s see what happens,” said a senior NDA leader on conditions of anonymity.
Although senior leaders of the NDA tried to hold an informal dialogue with the opposition and even called a meeting with all parties last week, the move didn’t yield result with most parties, including the Congress, Left, Janata Dal (United), Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, skipping the meeting.
The monsoon session precedes the crucial assembly elections in Bihar later this year and the government plans to showcase its policy initiatives at the centre to win over voters in the state.
The government wanted to pass several other pieces of legislation, including The Road Transport and Safety Bill, The Human Deoxyribose Nucleic Acid (DNA) Profiling Bill and The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, in the monsoon session.
“It definitely derails the reform agenda of the government, but it is ultimately the country which is losing the most. Each day of Parliament lost is virtually a lot of time lost to bring in reforms because even after a bill gets passed, there are several bureacratic and administrative works to finally get it implemented,” said N. Bhaskara Rao, a New Delhi-based political analyst.
“The problem is there has been no effort on either side, specially the government, to end this deadlock. There is a certain amount of stubborness in the ruling party wherein it has not been able to reach out to the opposition,” he added.
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