Bihar Assembly Elections 2015

Resurgent Opposition will have a say in reforms

The drubbing the Bharatiya Janata Party received in Bihar will dim prospects for economic reforms at the Centre, unless Prime Minister Narendra Modi invites the Opposition, ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament beginning later this month, for discussions on the pending key reforms Bills.

The risk, on the downside, is of government turning to populism — the Seventh Pay Commission is expected to submit its report to the Prime Minister on November 20, with recommendations for generous hikes for government employees.

The Modi government needs a two-thirds majority, or 163 votes, in the Rajya Sabha to carry the Constitution (122nd Amendment) Bill, 2014, needed to roll out a unified goods and services tax (GST) regime, but currently has 63. Even if the AIADMK and the Samajwadi Party pitch in, the total votes for the Bill will not breach the 100-vote mark. The Bill is unlikely to clear the Rajya Sabha without the support of 70 members of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance. Of the 16 seats from Bihar in the Upper House, five that are currently held by the Janata Dal(U) will come up for re-election next year. The National Democratic Alliance is expected to gain only one of these.

In 2018, six seats come up for re-election of which the BJP currently holds two and the JD(U) four. The BJP is not expected to bag any of these. So, even if the BJP were to win every seat in every other State that goes to the polls between now and 2019, it will not gain a majority in the Rajya Sabha. It won’t even reach 100 seats, in fact.

Jaitley’s offer

On November 4, just four days ahead of Sunday’s election result, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had said that he was willing to reach out and speak to Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi on the Bill, but sources indicate that nothing short of a call for support from the Prime Minister himself can now save the Winter Session and the Bill.

On Sunday, Congress leader and former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram called for Mr. Modi “to correct the course” and reach out to the Opposition. He reiterated that the opposition of the BJP to the UPA’s proposal on the GST was “unreasoned, blind and arbitrary”, while that of the Congress was based on specific objections.

He cautioned that if BJP members kept up their attitude towards the Opposition and go on calling protests against intolerance “manufactured”, then the government’s legislative agenda could remain difficult and that it itself was responsible for this.

Also due in the Winter Session is the report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the Modi government’s Bill for amending the UPA’s land acquisition law. Since the government let the land acquisition ordinance lapse after promulgating it thrice, the Bill is expected to favour farmers more than industry.

Labour laws

Other reforms for which the government will depend on the Opposition’s support in the Rajya Sabha include the nine Bills that Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya said on October 30, he would strive to table and get passed. These include the two codes that are a part of the Modi government’s initiative to simplify India’s labour laws. Mr. Jaitley had in his budget speech in February identified the reform of the bankruptcy law as a key priority for improving the ease of doing business and had announced that a comprehensive Bankruptcy Code, meeting global standards and providing necessary judicial capacity, would be brought in this financial year.

The Bankruptcy Law Reform Committee has already submitted its report and the government has invited comments on the report by November 19. The fate of all this legislation will also now depend on the political situation.

(With additional reporting by Rukmini S.)

Our code of editorial values

This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | Jul 29, 2021 12:32:28 PM |

Next Story