In a marked shift from the days of disruptions, the Parliament witnessed a smooth monsoon session as the Opposition and the ruling side came together to push reforms even as they crossed swords on key issues.
In the session, which ended on Friday, decks were cleared for India’s biggest tax reform – the Goods and Services Tax – ending a five-year wait for the constitution amendment bill.
Altogether, Lok Sabha cleared 15 bills and Rajya Sabha 14. Both Houses cleared 13 proposed laws for President’s assent, in a stark contrast from last year’s monsoon session when an aggressive Congress allowed only 4 bills to be cleared by both Houses.
Even as the Upper House, where the government is in minority, ran smoothly, the Opposition found opportunities to corner the Centre on the “mishandling” of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, price rise and atrocities on Dalits. In both Houses, Opposition parties regained a fragile unity to criticise the Modi government on the rising incidents of attacks on Dalits.
Parliamentary affairs minister Ananth Kumar and his junior minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, thanked the Opposition for cooperation in passing bills and hoped for the same in the next session. “The session went smooth as the Prime Minister had reached out to the Opposition at the start,” Kumar said.
After wasting many hours in earlier sessions, the Congress changed its floor strategy. “We decided to attack the government through debates on crucial issues, but did not become a stumbling block for key bills,” a senior Congress leader said.
The improvement in the House performance, with negligible disruptions, helped the government pass a handful of reforms bills, in contrast to earlier sessions when reforms were victim to bipartisan politics.
Parliament cleared the long-pending Benami Transactions (Prohibition) (Amendment) Bill, Enforcement of Security Interest and Recovery of Debts Laws and Miscellaneous Provisions (Amendment) Bill and two bills on higher education.
The labour bill amendment, to allow children up to 14 to work in family-run establishments, was also passed. Both Houses approved the law on compulsory afforestation or the Campa bill, barely two months after the Congress refused to pass it citing violations of forest right laws.
Information and broadcasting minister Venkaiah Naidu put it aptly: “There has been a good monsoon and also a good monsoon session.”