Sreeparna Chakrabarty says there is no legislative agenda before government
The more than month-long budget session of parliament seems to have run out of steam with the government failing to draw up a legislative agenda for the remaining two weeks, a situation the opposition blames on the “inexperience” of the new dispensation.
Though the current session is scheduled till Aug 14, the government has not listed any legislative business for Monday in the Lok Sabha. Both the Congress and the Trinamool Congress raised the issue in the Lok Sabha on Friday but were informed by the speaker that listing the business is a convention and is not mandatory.
In the Rajya Sabha, the government has announced its plans to take up a bill to amend the insurance law, its first initiative towards economic reforms.
“This reeks of lack of experience in running parliament,” Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said.
“The prime minister himself is new. He is not giving adequate directions. He leaves for Nepal Sunday, which again means that parliamentary business will be in a limbo,” he added.
According to Congress’ Sanjay Jha: “The BJP, despite an absolute majority, has not been able to have a structured approach to legislative issues.”
“There are so many crucial bills which need to be taken up on an urgent basis like the anti-corruption bills and the judicial accountability bills,” Jha said.
According to PRS Legislative Research, when the 15th Lok Sabha ended its term, 128 bills were pending in parliament – 68 in the Lok Sabha, which lapsed with its dissolution and 60 in the Rajya Sabha.
The parliamentary affairs ministry had announced a tentative list of 15 bills to be discussed and passed and five bills to be introduced during the budget session. However, almost no new bills have yet been cleared by the cabinet.
Compared to this, in the budget session of 2009, the UPA government had listed 14 bills, including the Finance Bill, to be considered or passed, and 29 to be introduced.
In this session, besides the Finance Bills, the NDA government has so far steered a bill to amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Act, and a bill to transfer land from Telangana to Andhra Pradesh.
The TRAI bill was taken up and passed primarily to facilitate former TRAI chairman Nripendra Mishra’s appointment as the principal secretary to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“With the Railway and the Union Budgets passed, parliament is expected to shift gear to focus on legislation for the rest of the session. Other than bills to replace two ordinances, parliament has passed only one other bill so far,” Shreya Singh of PRS said.
“It now remains to be seen which other bills would the government be able to get parliament’s approval for, including the contentious Insurance Amendment Bill,” she added.
Said Jha: “The new government proves that just having an absolute majority doesn’t translate into good governance. You can’t escape from public scrutiny.”
“Not only bills, look at the way they have handled the discussion on issues like Gaza and the (supposed) Nitin Gadkari bugging,” he added.
According to Saugata Roy, “The government is completely undecided about the insurance bill. Earlier they wanted to bring it in the Lok Sabha, but then they brought it in the Rajya Sabha where it is stuck,” he said. “They (the government) do not know their mind,” he added.
After the budget was passed last week, speculation was rife that the government wanted to curtail the budget session, but the prime minister apparently directed that a legislative agenda be taken up and various ministries were asked to finalise bills to be taken up.
A government source said that the “the prime minister is keen to take up legislative agenda for the session and the government is looking at bills that can be taken up”.
BJP MP from Bikaner, Arjun Ram Meghwal, stuck to the official position that it was not mandatory for the government to declare the legislative agenda for the next week
“There will be a meeting of the Business Advisory Committee on Monday morning and the agenda till Aug 8 will be decided,” Meghwal said.