The coal and mining bills may have got broad opposition support in the Rajya Sabha on Friday but hectic back-channel talks by the government were crucial in getting parties such as the Trinamool Congress and Biju Janata Dal on board.
A fortnight ago, Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik came to Delhi for an unpublicised short break but held long meetings with finance minister Arun Jaitley and power minister Piyush Goyal.
His West Bengal counterpart, Mamata Banerjee, also arrived at the same time to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had spoken to Patnaik earlier. This was followed up by Goyal, who say with Banerjee and Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien to explain the "benefits" of the coal bill. Earlier in January, Jaitley had also spoken to the CM in Kolkata.
"We held a series of meetings with Jaitley and Goyal. We suggested amendments and they accepted them," O'Brien said. The clinching factor was a clause that allowed e-auctioning. "In Bengal, we have seen an 87% rise in revenues after e-auctions," he added.
Last week, urban development minister Venkaiah Naidu had a closed-door meeting with top government managers and Congress leaders like Ghulam Nabi Azad and Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar. The meeting did the trick, with Pawar reportedly indicating his party's support.
Modi also personally reached out to Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav, attending his grand nephew's pre-wedding 'tilak' ceremony at Saifai. The SP supported the bills saying coal and mine auctions would stop otherwise. Similarly, the government took note of the BJD's concerns. "All promises made were fulfilled though amendments or executive orders," said party leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.
A major achievement of the government was convincing the Janata Dal (United) to walk out and not vote against the two bills. The Congress, which had publicly opposed the bills along with the Left and DMK, also saw some of its members absent during the voting.