The possibility of the current leg of the Parliament session being extended receded on Thursday as the two sides in the Rajya Sabha reached an understanding to fast-track on Friday the disposal of both the mines and minerals and the coal mines bills.
The compromise came after repeated adjournments of the Rajya Sabha with the Congress obstructing proceedings after the House took up the mines bill. Since members across parties were against an extension, the opposition agreed to the idea floated by the government. At the end of over an hour of wrangling, the government and the Opposition both resolved to dispose of the two bills. The Rajya Sabha will take up the mines bill at 11 am and the coal bill at 2.30 pm.
If amended by the Rajya Sabha, the two bills will have to go back to the Lok Sabha. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu has to complete the whole exercise before the Lok Sabha concludes its sitting.
The February 23-May 8 session is scheduled to go into a month’s recess after Friday’s business. The government wants to rush the two bills because these are designed to replace ordinances.
Sources disclosed that the issue dominated the Rajya Sabha business advisory committee meeting today. While the opposition felt that it needed time to study the select committee reports on these bills, the government offered a choice between considering (and voting on) the bills on Thursday-Friday and sitting for one week more. As the opposition contested the second option, the chairman, according to the sources, took the stand that the government could go in for an extension. Naidu also argued that the Opposition had gone back on its promise to dispose of the bills before the recess.
Official circles were optimistic that the bills will be passed. They claim having won the support of the SP, the JD(U), the Trinamool Congress, the DMK, the AIADMK and the BSP. Indeed, it was members of the Congress and the Left who caused the evening’s disruptions.
The Rajya Sabha was adjourned three times. Until the compromise, the Congress kept demanding that the mines bill draft be resent to the select committee, while the government argued that the opposition has exhausted its options.
P Rajeeve (CPI) moved a motion that the bill be resent to the select committee, arguing the composition of the committee “did not consider the basic principals of democracy. “Despite suggestions to call representation from states, the suggestion has been ignored by the committee.”
Ministers Venkaiah Naidu and Arun Jaitley argued that the bill has been introduced in the Rajya Sabha after being approved in Lok Sabha and that in such cases, there cannot be a second chance to “question the wisdom of the Lok Sabha”.
The government, however, is still stuck with the land acquisition amendment bill, even after the Lok Sabha cleared it. The government cannot bring it to the Rajya Sabha because of opposition from within the Sangh Parivar, its ally Shiv Sena and other parties friendly with the BJP” “We don’t have the numbers (in the Rajya Sabha) to pass the bil”,” an official source admitted. The government’s only option is to re-promulgate the related ordinance by April 5. And that can be done only if Parliament is prorogued.
Inputs by Pranav Kulkarni
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