The Gujarat Assembly’s two-day Monsoon session held earlier this week was its last session before the constitution of a new House following fresh polls due by this year-end. The session was convened in the backdrop of a series of agitations by sections of government employees for pay hikes and scrapping of contractual appointments and by Maldharis (cattle-rearers) against the stray cattle control bill.
During the September 21-22 Assembly session, the Bhupendra Patel-led government moved to withdraw the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022 barely six months after it was passed by a majority. It brought an amendment to the Gujarat Electricity Industry (Reorganisation and Regulation) legislation in order to decriminalise some acts of non-compliance by industries by placing them in three categories, where only a higher non-compliance would be punishable by imprisonment, to push “ease of doing business”.
The BJP government also amended the Gujarat Municipalities Act, doing away with the provision of publishing rules of recruitment and conditions of service for various posts to invite objections and suggestions from all affected parties that delayed the processes.
The Assembly cleared an amendment to the Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) Act, which allowed the university to expand outside the state. The GNLU has plans to set up a campus in Silvassa in Union Territory of Dadra Nagar Haveli. Sources told The Indian Express that that this amendment bill was introduced in the Assembly following a proposal made by the UT administrator Praful Patel.
The House also amended the Gujarat Control of Terrorism and Organised Crime (GujCTOC) Act by dropping gambling as an offence under it, apart from making other tweaks.
Unlike its stormy Budget session held in March when the passage of the stray cattle control bill faced strong resistance from the Opposition Congress MLAs, the House saw its brief Monsoon session ending on a rather conciliatory note amid unanimous passage of all the Bills, even as the ministers recalled the five years gone by and were joined in by equally nostalgic MLAs from the principal Opposition Congress.
Amid the risk of the “anti-incumbency” factor and the emergence of a new challenger in the form of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) besides the Congress, the ruling BJP’s bid to withdraw its stray cattle control bill was clearly aimed at pacifying the protesting Maldharis just ahead of the elections. Accounting for about 10% population of Gujarat, the Maldhari community holds significant electoral significance in the state. The Congress had also rallied in support of Maldharis’ statewide stir even though the BJP had managed to defuse it by placing the Bill in abeyance a week after it was passed on March 31.
The Patel government will go down as one that made many conciliatory moves in its 12-month tenure, beginning with the scrapping of the Par Tapi Narmada Yojana following tribal protests, to announcing wage hikes for almost all sections of agitating government employees, to scrapping of the cattle control legislation.
Marked by the absence of the Question Hour, the opening day of the session saw the Congress MLAs seeking a 30-60 minute discussion on the government employees’ demands, which was rejected by Speaker Nima Acharya, following which the MLAs rushed to the Well of the House and were suspended for the day. In the 182-member House, the Congress has 63 MLAs as against the BJP’s 111.
On the second day, the Congress legislators staged a walk-out from the House twice — first when their demand for a discussion on the Lumpy Skin Disease (LSD) was rejected by the Speaker, and then after their demand for a 30-minute discussion on the issue of OBC reservation in local bodies was rejected by the Chair as the Treasury benches raised their objections to it. Many Congress MLAs rushed to the Well and were suspended following which other party members walked out from the House.
On the last day of the session, a Congress member also brought a proposal to discuss price rise, which was also turned down by a majority vote.
The House, however, held short discussions on roads damaged due to rains, relief for rains-affected farmers, and the issue of controlling prices of edible oil, among other things.
The annual reports of various government bodies were tabled along with a report of the Comptroller & Auditor General of India on air pollution. The reports of various House committees were also tabled during the session.
CM Patel, who has been maintaining a low profile since the beginning of his tenure, only spoke on a reference to mourn the deaths of seven former ministers or MLAs.
To sum it up
— During its two-day Monsoon session, the Gujarat Assembly rolls back the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) in Urban Areas Bill, 2022
— The House passed amendments to six legislation including the GujCTOC, Gujarat Municipalities Act, GNLU Act, and Gujarat Electricity Industry (Reorganisation and Regulation) Act.
— The session witnessed suspensions of Opposition Congress members and their walk-outs over various issues
— The last Assembly session ahead of the state polls ended on a reconciliatory note