Ordinance route on two key bills in Parliament?

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Dec 23, 2014 07:42 IST

Its reform agenda caught in the Rajya Sabha logjam, the government may take the ordinance route to push key bills after the winter session of Parliament ends on Tuesday.

Two important bills - to increase foreign participation in the insurance sector and re-auction coal blocks - are unlikely to get the approval of the Rajya Sabha that has been paralysed for almost a week now over the conversion row.

The Lok Sabha, where the NDA enjoys a majority, has passed the coal bill while a Rajya Sabha panel has suggested some changes to the insurance bill.

"We have limited options and we will have to explore them," a source told HT. Finance minister Arun Jaitley had said last week there were "enough safeguards, and constitutional system" to deal and effectively defeat the policy of political obstructions.

The winter session was expected to set off next wave of investments but a united opposition, which outweighs the ruling NDA in the Rajya Sabha, pushed back the government's reform agenda.

An ordinance is a provision to enact laws outside a Parliament session and has the same force and effect as an act of Parliament. It stays valid for six months within which Parliament has to ratify it for it to become a law.

The government, a senior minister said, was equally worried about the land acquisition act, seen by many as anti-industry. The NDA government wants to make changes to the act passed by the previous UPA government.

Jaitley was in touch with rural development minister Birender Singh to finalise the amendments, a source said. Singh, the source said, had some serious reservation about changes proposed by predecessor Nitin Gadkari.

"The land acquisition amendment bill is more important than insurance and coal bills. The House can wait but nation is not in a mood to wait," a union minister said.

In case of coal, the government will need to re-issue the ordinance allowing auctioning of blocks cancelled by the Supreme Court which said the allocation process was arbitrary. The auction schedule was ready, another source said.

Ordinance was also an option available to the government on the long-pending insurance legislation to raise the cap on foreign investment to 49% from 26%. The opposition Congress has in principal agreed to increase in the FDI ceiling.

The government could invoke the urgency clause to bring in an ordinance and the fact that a bill was awaiting Parliament approval was no impediment, another minister said.

"We haven't taken a call yet on bringing an ordinance allowing 49% FDI in the insurance sector. But, there is no hurdle if the government decides to go for it and not wait until the budget session," another minister said. Parliament is now expected to meet early next year.

The cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs will Tuesday take stock of the House situation to decide on the government's next move, parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu said. "Some opposition parties are trying to rake up this (conversion) issue and derail the agenda of the government of development and good governance. Unfortunately they will not get any support from people," he said.


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