Winter session of Parliament beginning tomorrow is expected to generate heat with government planning to push an ambitious economic agenda undeterred by resistance from a section of the Opposition.
The much-delayed Insurance Bill seeking to allow more foreign capital is high on the government agenda so also the Goods and Service Tax Bill.
The bills seeking to replace the coal ordinance and the one of textiles takeover will also have to be passed on priority.
This is the second major session of the Narendra Modi government since it came to power some six months back and government managers have made it clear that the economic reforms agenda will be put on fast track.
The session is taking place weeks after parties belonging to the erstwhile Janata ‘Parivar’ (family) came together on a common platform and have announced plans to have a joint strategy in both Houses of Parliament.
The parties including–JD-U, RJD, JD-S, INLD and Samajwadi Party- have said that they would pool their resources in Parliament to be more effective. Together, these parties account for barely 15 seats in the Lok Sabha, but have 25 seats in the Rajya Sabha, which, looking at the way numbers are balanced in the Upper House is far more significant.
The Congress, which is the largest opposition group in the Lok Sabha has also made it known that it could have reservations if the government brings amendments to various bills, including the one on land laws which was passed during the UPA regime.
A meeting of Secretaries of various Ministries and Departments with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley earlier this week concluded that 39 bills may be ready for either introduction or consideration in the session being held from November 24 to December 23.
Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, notwithstanding reservations by some parties, has decided to go ahead with shifting the timing of the Question Hour from 11 AM to 12 PM from the upcoming Session in an apparent move to ensure disruption-free proceedings during this segment.
But Lok Sabha has no plans to shift the timing of the Question Hour. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan said last night that none of the leaders at the all-party meeting expressed any divergent views on her stand that the timing of the Question Hour — which commences at 11 AM — should not be changed.
Mahajan said starting the day with Zero Hour which often witnesses uproar could better be avoided, suggesting it was not a good beginning to the day’s proceedings.
During the month-long Session having a total of 22 sittings, Opposition is likely to rake up the issue of the proposed disbanding of the Planning Commission and government’s alleged “U-turn” on bringing back blackmoney stashed abroad.
The Nanavati Commission report on Gujarat riots, repeated incursions by Chinese Army, a series of accidents involving naval vessels, Shiv Sena’s demand for a special package for Maharashtra where parts of the state facing drought-like situation and AAP’s demand for package for Punjab farmers are also likely to be raised.
This session will also see a situation where Shiv Sena, while being an alliance partner of the ruling NDA at the Centre, is in opposition in Maharashtra where BJP is ruling the state. Talks are on to resolve the alliance issue in Maharashtra.
Days before the session commences, Speaker Mahajan has also announced allocation of seats in the lower house. The exercise took some six months since the 16th Lok Sabha came into being.
Congress has not been able to secure the Leader of the Opposition post as it fell short of the required 55 by 11 seats but
Leader of Congress in the House Mallikarjun Kharge has been alloted the seat normally given to LoP in the Lok Sabha next to that of the Deputy Speaker in the Opposition benches.
Mahajan made it clear that this does not mean that the Congress leader has been accorded the Leader of the Opposition status.
With no Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, government is also amending the DSPE Act to make way for the leader of the single largest opposition party in Lok Sabha as a member of the selection committee to appoint the CBI chief.
Besides, government also plans to put a clause in the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act — governing the functioning of CBI — and the Lokpal Act to ensure that there is no requirement of “quorum” in the respective selection panels for choosing the anti-corruption ombudsman or the CBI chief.
Even in the absence of any of the members on the date of the meeting, its proceedings would not become “invalid”. The two laws are at present silent on the issue.