[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he month-long Winter Session of Parliament commenced today, 26 November. Given the frequent adjournment of proceedings during the Monsoon Session in July-August 2015 and the bitter attack by the largest opposition party Indian National Congress (INC), there is some doubt over the smooth functioning of this session as well. The BJP Government has initiated discussions with opposition leaders and even approached the top brass of INC to ensure undisturbed functioning of Parliament.
For the opposition parties, there are some critical political matters for discussion. Opposition will like to discuss some of these issues to embarrass the government:
- Issues on intolerance, return of awards by certain writers, filmmakers, artistes etc.;
- Debate over cow slaughter and communal tensions arising out of that;
- 125th birth anniversary of BR Ambedkar, a ‘Dalit’ icon, and caste politics;
- Recent easing of rules governing Foreign Direct Investment to India;
- One Rank One Pension for India’s armed forces, and
- Food price rise and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s frequent trips abroad….
As expected, Congress president Sonia Gandhi led the attack on the first day, and she was adequately challenged Home Minister Rajnath Singh particularly on the definition and application of the term “secularism”.
For the government, this session is important for two reasons. Frequent Parliament disruptions cast doubts on its floor management skills. There are several important Bills to be placed and passed by Parliament.
The olive branch extended by the government to bring the INC back to the House is a sign that the government is keen to see a smooth operation of Parliament during the Winter Session.
The most important Bill for the Government is the one on GST, which was passed by the Lok Sabha and is stuck in the Rajya Sabha. The government is negotiating for support from INC on this important legislation.
Besides, there are 3 ordinances relating to the adjudication system, needed to improve India’s “ease of doing business” ranking. All the 3 ordinances have to be passed by the Parliament, or else these will lapse. The first 2 are pending in the Upper House and the third one is yet to be placed before Parliament i.e.:
- The Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial appellate Division of High Courts Bill
- The Negotiable Instruments Bill
- The Arbitration and Conciliation Bill.
There are two more important legislations to be placed before Parliament for approval in order to take India ahead in expansion of its nuclear power capacity. The Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill will create an independent regulator as suggested by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Atomic Energy Amendment Bill will help fast tracking India’s quest for nuclear power.
The Winter Session of Parliament will need the treasury benches and the opposition to be on the same page for smooth functioning of the House. That is why there has been a behind-the-scene effort to draw up a formula to ensure that Parliament functions. For the opposition, this session will provide an opportunity to raise their pet political issues while, for the government, it will give an opportunity to carry forward some much-needed reforms.
After the loss in Bihar Assembly election, the BJP needs to betray a business-as-usual attitude. On the other hand, the win of the RJD-JD(U)-Congress combination in Bihar gives the opposition a new tool to engage in debate against the government.
Already the largest opposition party, INC, has been relegated to the position of an insignificant partner in the anti-BJP coalition in Bihar. The Monsoon Session could not function primarily because of the INC’s belligerence. Now that other regional opposition parties have emerged stronger, it is likely that the INC will opt for a peace formula being offered by the BJP to ensure a smooth but eventful winter session of the Parliament.