The last session of the 15th Lok Sabha, which starts today, will be the Congress-led UPA 2 government’s final attempt to make sure that the term doesn’t come to an end with the dubious distinction of being the worst-performing House since Independence.
To ensure this, the government is keen to pass more than 35 Bills during the two-week session. The Vote-on-Account, the interim rail budget and the interim general budget would be the session’s important financial transactions.
The prominent Bills on the agenda before the House are: the six anti-corruption Bills; the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008 (which has been passed by the Rajya Sabha); the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill; the Telangana Bill; the Insurance law (Amendment) Bill, 2008; the Higher Education and Research Bill, 2011; the Universities for Research and Innovation Bill, 2012, which will focus on research and innovation at the university level, and the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill 2011.
Two other Bills, the 120th Constitution (Amendment) Bill, 2013, which will pave the way for setting up a Judicial Appointments Council replacing the collegiums system for appointing judges to higher courts and the Whistle-blowers Protection Bill, 2011, are pending in the Upper House. While these last two Bills will not lapse even if they are not passed this session, the current backlog of 54 Bills in the Rajya Sabha cannot be ignored.
While the Opposition parties have accused the UPA government of ‘rushing’ through key Bills because the elections are round the corner, the Congress has much more to worry than them thanks to the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Bill, 2013. The party is likely to face opposition from within its ranks in Parliament on the Bill. The UPA floor managers have a tough job at hand: they have to ensure that the session is not washout like the winter session when the Lok Sabha worked for just 6% of the actual hours scheduled.
Every government that has completed its term till date has passed more than 210 Bills and less than 45 Bills have lapsed during their tenures. The UPA 2 has passed only about 165 Bills and if this session is non-productive around 70 Bills will lapse. In an election year such a track record will reflect poorly on the UPA. On its part, the Opposition should also act in a responsible manner and refrain from frequent disruptions. It should ensure that order is maintained and productive debates are held on the Bills.