Sensible compromise PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 13 May 2015 03:46
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Must ensure quick turnaround at committee stage


Though the government has reluctantly agreed to sending the GST and Land Acquisition bills to parliamentary committees—GST to a Rajya Sabha one and the land one to a joint parliamentary panel—this is something it should have agreed to a long time ago. Sending Bills to committees is a convention in Parliament and, more so since the NDA does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha, it should have tried its best not to annoy Opposition members. In any case, since the BJP opposed most Congress Bills when it was in Opposition—including Bills like the insurance one that the BJP had originally sponsored—it was naïve to think the Congress wouldn’t return the favour. In return for agreeing to sending the Bills to parliamentary committees, the NDA could well have negotiated for quick reports from the panels, as it did with the insurance and the mines and minerals development and regulation Bills, and then planned on an early passage. So, if all goes well, the GST Bill could well get passed in the early part of the monsoon session. In any case, given the Bill’s flaws, sending it to a select committee may not be a bad idea.

The problems the NDA is facing in getting key Bills passed also suggests its strategy is not working. In the first half of the session with key states likely to benefit from them, parties like the BJD and the Trinamool broke ranks with the others to vote for the coal and minerals Bills. Despite most states being upset with the UPA’s land Bill, few seem to be inclined to actively vote against it since this would make them look anti-farmer—that is much the same reason the BJP also voted for the UPA’s land Bill, the last time around. Which is all the more reason why prime minister Narendra Modi needed to be actively wooing allies in the manner he did Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee last week. Also, given how land is a state subject, or at best a concurrent one, it is unclear why the government never pursued the strategy it did in the case of labour policy—that is, allow the states to come up with more progressive Bills and get the President to sign on. While the attempt should be to get the GST Bill passed at the earliest, the government would do well not to expend too much capital on the land Bill, and instead encourage states to come up with their own versions of it.


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