The Narendra Modi government faced embarrassment in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday as it was forced to “defer” the withdrawal of three bills, including one on raising the FDI limit in the insurance sector, with a united Opposition standing in its way.
The Congress, Trinamool, Left, Samajwadi Party and BSP questioned the government’s intent and insisting on a debate on the motion for withdrawal. Finance minister Arun Jaitley made a strong plea for withdrawal of the insurance bill, terming it an “infructuous” legislation, but the Opposition refused to relent, forcing the government to postpone the process.
Apart from the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2014, the other proposed legislation were the Coal Mines (Special Provision) Bill, 2014 and The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
As soon as Rajya Sabha convened, leader of Opposition in the House, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said, “It will be difficult to support the motion to withdraw the legislation without a discussion.”
“When there is a valid law in existence that law has to be introduced in one House, in this case the Lok Sabha, and a bill substituting the ordinance has to be simultaneously introduced,” Jaitley said. “If there is a valid law in existence, an earlier law identical or otherwise pending in one of the Houses as a bill becomes infructuous.”
CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury questioned the government’s intention when it had already brought ordinances to replace the bills.
“If the bills were to be withdrawn, then why did you bring an ordinance? The withdrawal is against the propriety of the House,” he said, with members of the Congress, SP, BSP and TMC supporting him.
The setback in the Rajya Sabha raises questions about the ruling party’s floor management strategy as there was no clarity on why the government moved to pull out the bills though it didn’t have the numbers.
If the government had succeeded in withdrawing the bills, it could have got fresh ones passed by the Lok Sabha where it’s in a majority and then tried to go for a joint session if Rajya Sabha rejected the legislation.
The government cannot go the joint session route unless a proposed legislation has been passed by one House and rejected by the other.
A section of the government was of the view that the bills, which will be brought in Lok Sabha to replace the ordinances, would be treated as fresh bills and the government could try to push these through the joint session route, leaving the pending legislation in the Rajya Sabha as infructuous.
Congress sources, however, said even this might not be easy as the Opposition could force the government again to send a fresh bill to the Select Committee, when it comes to the Rajya Sabha, and delay its passage.
“The Upper House can keep it (a bill) for six months. Don’t forget that the time taken by the Select Committee is not counted in this six-month period.
Anyway, if the government opts for this, it will have a lot of explaining to do for proposing two legislations on the same subject in Parliament,” said a senior Congress leader.