Disruptions by the Congress and Left delayed the passage of the mines and minerals bill in Rajya Sabha on Thursday. The House will now take it up on Friday, the last day of the first half of the budget session, with the possibility of another round of confrontation.
The coal block allotment bill, slated after the mines bill, could not be taken up at all.
Keen to pass both bills in this half itself, as the ordinances they seek to replace lapse on April 6, the government retains the option of seeking an extension to the session by two days next week.
A vote may see the bills sail through as the NDA, with 60 MPs in the 244-strong House, has managed to get a section of the Opposition — Trinamool, AIADMK, BJD and Samajwadi Party — on its side. In comparison, the Congress (68) and the Left (11) are in a minority.
Both bills have already been cleared by Lok Sabha. But the mines bill, if cleared by Rajya Sabha, will have to be sent back to the lower House for approval of two new amendments incorporated on the select committee’s recommendation. So, it may still be a race against time for the government.
As soon as the mines bill was taken up for consideration and passage in the evening, CPI(M) and Congress members were up in protest against the manner in which the bill was reviewed by a select committee.
The CPM’s P Rajeeve demanded the bill be studied again and was backed by the Congress’ Anand Sharma and Digvijaya Singh.
However, finance minister Arun Jaitley cited the House rules to reject the demand. “Disruptions can only give temporary sadistic pleasure but it won’t help in the growth of the nation,” he said.
Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu accused the Opposition of going back on a “gentleman’s agreement” to allow “debate and decision” on the bill.
As the House adjourned for the day, Naidu said the mines bill would now be taken up at 11am Friday, followed by the coal bill, which was cleared by the parliamentary panel without changes. The CPM’s Sitaram Yechury reminded Naidu that he only “hoped” for this schedule — indicating more disruptions ahead.