In a sign of what may be in store for its ordinances in Rajya Sabha, the government Tuesday was forced to give in to the Opposition’s demand that the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulations) Amendment Bill be sent to a select committee for review.
Opposition sources indicated other contentious bills such as those on coal block allotment, insurance and land acquisition — all passed by Lok Sabha — could go the same way in the upper House, where the government is in a minority, thereby delaying their passage.
The mines and minerals ordinance, promulgated on January 12, allows mining licences only through auctions. The bill to replace the ordinance was passed in the lower House last week.
The composition and tenure of the parliamentary panel that reviews this bill will be decided Wednesday. It would be the fourth bill of the NDA regime to be referred to a select committee on the Opposition’s demand.
As mines minister Narendra Singh Tomar sought passage of the bill, Shantaram Naik and JD Seelam of the Congress and the CPI(M)’s P Rajeeve demanded it be referred to a select committee. The suggested composition of this panel: Mani Shankar Aiyar, Naik and Seelam from the Congress, TK Rangarajan (CPM), D Raja (CPI), Tiruchi Siva (DMK) and Sharad Yadav (JDU).
But Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurian expressed reservations about this all-Opposition panel, saying, “My concern is that it does not represent the House but a section of it.”
The government pressed for a discussion and a heated exchange ensued, resulting in four adjournments. When order was finally restored, a debate was allowed and it went on for almost five hours.
Finance minister and Leader of the House Arun Jaitley termed the select panel motion “in fructuous”, citing a 1954 ruling that says MPs can’t be members of select committee if they have participated in the discussion. To this, Rajeeve recalled that Jaitley had participated in the lokpal debate in 2012 and became a member of the select committee on the issue.
To end the logjam, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu suggested postponing the motion till Wednesday to allow senior leaders to reach consensus on the panel’s tenure and composition. Power minister Piyush Goel was seen in hectic discussion with key Opposition leaders.
After a prolonged debate on technical and procedural issues and with leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad backing the idea of a broad-based panel, the leaders of all parties agreed on taking up the discussion on Wednesday.