By promulgating ordinances within days of the winter session of Parliament coming to a close, the Narendra Modi government has shown that it is not averse to repeating what his party would have considered a constitutional impropriety, had it been done by a Congress government. The power to issue ordinances is normally to be exercised to bring in urgent legislative measures when Parliament is in recess. It is not one to be resorted to merely because the government of the day lacks a majority in the Upper House or is unable to break a deadlock in Parliament. However, it is seen that inefficient floor management, fear of facing a House in which the incumbent party does not have a majority, and a reluctance to make pragmatic concessions across the floor in the interest of sticking to its legislative agenda are the main reasons for prolonged deadlocks. It is a situation rich in irony as the BJP had often questioned the United Progressive Alliance government’s promulgation of ordinances in close proximity to a parliamentary session. As in the case of the impasse in the Rajya Sabha that occasioned the ordinances recently issued to make legislative changes in the coal and insurance sectors, logjams are often the result of the government’s aversion to resolving issues raised by the Opposition. The Bharatiya Janata Party’s justification for exercising the President’s legislative power is that it had to avoid any further delay in the e-auction of coal blocks; and that raising the cap on foreign direct investment in insurance from 26 per cent to 49 brooked no further delay. And it has now approved yet another ordinance to amend the land acquisition law when there appears to be no urgent need to do so.
On the flip side, it is a fact that the combined opposition, which outnumbers the ruling party and its allies in the Rajya Sabha, was determined to stall the proceedings until the demand that the Prime Minister himself make a statement on the ongoing ‘reconversion’ drive organised by affiliates of the Sangh Parivar was met. Mr. Modi could have intervened at least once to clear the air on allegations that his government was conniving at the controversial ghar vapsi programmes across the country. For a government committed to undoing the ‘policy paralysis’ of the previous regime and revitalising economic reforms and good governance, his regime has shown notable reluctance to rein in fringe Hindutva elements that do not seem to care for the government’s growth and development objectives. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s claim that the promulgation of the ordinances signify the government’s commitment to reform is questionable. An easier way to demonstrate its commitment to reform would have been to create conditions conducive to getting the Bills passed in the House.