The Centre is now resigned to the fact that it will have to re-promulgate the Land Acquisition (Amendment) Ordinance as that this is one piece of legislation that the entire opposition is determined to block, even with the nine fresh amendments that it moved earlier this week. To do so, the government will have to prorogue Parliament to enable it to re-promulgate the ordinance.
Meanwhile the fate of the crucial Coal Bill and the Mines and Mineral Bill depends on whether the opposition will allow the Select Committees looking into them, to submit the final reports.
If the government fails to meet the deadline to clear these two Bills, then it might be forced to extend the session, sources in the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry said, as the ordinances that these Bills seek to replace will lapse on April 5.
The Congress’ decision to support the Insurance Bill has left the opposition in disarray. The Congress itself is unsure of its future course. While it does not want to break opposition unity, if the government agrees to some changes that it wants, it has no fundamental problem with either of these two Bills. The party, of course, is also annoyed that former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has been issued summons by a CBI Special Court in a coal scam case.
Following the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this week, the Trinamool Congress too is backing these two Bills.
While Congress leaders continue to maintain in public that they find the manner in which the government is rushing the Bills through, objectionable, whether they will help clear the Coal and Mines Bills is yet to be decided.
A Congress MP, member of one of the Select Committees, told The Hindu , “Let us see what the draft report that will be ready by Monday says, whether it accommodates the changes we wanted.”
The government is now banking on the fact that opposing the Coal Bill – that emerged from a Supreme Court judgement – and the Mines Bill will not yield the political dividends that blocking the Land Bill does. It would strive to ensure that the opposition parties will eventually cooperate with it on the two that will emerge from the Select Committees. It is also drawing comfort from the way in which the two Select Committees have been meeting daily since they were constituted on March 11.
Meanwhile, the haste with which the government has been trying to convert the six ordinances promulgated in January into Acts of Parliament in the midst of clearing the General Budget and the Railway Budget, has brought to the surface inconsistencies. For instance, while the old Insurance Bill, pending in Rajya Sabha, was withdrawn before the new one was passed, the Motor Vehicles Bill has been cleared by Parliament, while the old one remains pending in the Upper House, creating an odd precedent.