They come together with populism mainly
With so many sessions of Parliament washed away in acrimony, it comes as a breath of fresh air to see the government and the Opposition parties coming together to pass critical legislation. Indeed, even the bitterness over Telangana, the war of words between the Prime Minister and the leader of the Opposition were brushed aside to move forward the legislative agenda. And about time too since, in comparison with the first Lok Sabha’s average of 333 Bills and 317 since in subsequent ones that lasted for more than 3 years, this Lok Sabha is batting at just 157 Bills. What makes the process all the more galling is that some of the Bills passed have been pending for years, for no good reason. The Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill has been pending since March 2011 when it was first introduced in the Lok Sabha, and the Standing Committee gave its recommendations on this way back in August 2011—to top it all, the PFRDA was really a creation of the BJP when it was in power as a means to, over a period of time, free life-savers from the monopoly of the crisis-ridden and inefficient EPFO. The Companies Bill, similarly, was first introduced in August 2009, the Standing Committee gave its report a year later, the government withdrew the Bill in the winter session of 2011 and reintroduced it in the same session—from the time it was originally proposed to the time it was finally passed took all of 4 excruciating years. The NHAI Bill, to extend the authority of the NHAI, similarly, should have been welcomed by the Opposition considering the path-breaking formula to kick-start India’s comatose highway-building programme was conceived by the NDA.
While the NDA strangely chose to back away from progressive legislations advanced by it initially, including the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, what’s worrying is what brings the MPs together. In the case of the food Bill, despite the BJP’s opposition to it and concern over it being a financial boondoggle, the party chose to help pass it since it didn’t want to be seen as opposing a Bill that was supposed to be helping the poor. Some like the JDU’s Sharad Yadav made an impassioned critique of the food Bill and then supported it, for the same reason that it made good optics. Similarly, in the case of the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, 2011, the BJP’s top brass like Narendra Modi know fully well this will make it impossible to acquire land for any industry—the manifold jump in the pricing of the land is not the issue, it is the compulsory social impact assessment and the onerous R&R which is—but the party didn’t want to oppose it for the same reason. The onus of thinking about the consequences of legislation is not just that of the ruling party, it is of the Opposition parties as well.