A united Opposition has multiple options to delay the passage of the contentious land acquisition and insurance bills in Parliament, leaving the government staring at a long road ahead to deliver big-ticket reforms and shore up the economy.
While the NDA-dominated Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the legislation proposing to raise the foreign direct investment (FDI) ceiling in the insurance sector to 49% from 26%, the land bill to amend a UPA-era acquisition law is expected to sail through next Tuesday.
However, in the upper house the Opposition can pass a motion to refer the two bills to standing committees or select committees of Parliament for review.
CPI (M) leader Sitaram Yechury has already argued for such scrutiny as these proposed legislation were brought as new bills, while old bills were pending in the Rajya Sabha.
Such a panel may take three to six months to review the legislation and submit reports and the government would have no other option but to wait.
“Our aim is not to defeat the bills but to hold them in the upper house,” said an Opposition leader.
The option of calling a joint session, too, can prove to be a lengthy affair for the government if the Opposition forces the Rajya Sabha to sit on the bills without rejecting them immediately.
Article 108 of the Constitution says that in such cases of inaction, the government would have to wait till more than six months have passed after the bills coming to the Rajya Sabha during the session.
“In other words, the government has to wait for 360 days of Rajya Sabha session, which may take even two years,” said former Lok Sabha secretary general TK Vishwanathan, who is an advisor to the President on constitutional matters.
If the upper house rejects the bills outright or passes them with amendments next week, the government can straightaway go for a joint session in May.
Sensing the hurdles, the government has stepped up efforts to negotiate with allies and opposition parties to find common ground on the land bill.