The ruling Congress is yet to come out from the fear and shock of a massive defeat by the hands of principal opposition party BJP in key states being such close to General elections.
Since the session began on December 5, some of the allies of the ruling UPA government, few congress members, SP, BSP and BJP has held up Parliament proceedings with constant disruptions over issues like the Joint Parliamentary Committee or JPC on the 2G spectrum scam, the death of children in relief camps in Muzaffarnagar, inflation and Telangana.
BJP’s Arun Jaitley has declared after the election’s result “When you are 18 short of majority, then you cannot run the government as you please. You cannot touch the 272 mark in Lok Sabha – you will need support and help. And whenever you need help, you have to compromise and pay a price”.
Among important legislation lined up for the winter session is the Lokpal Bill, which the Centre had promised to push through in this session. Its promise came to light yesterday, soon after Gandhian activist Anna Hazare began yet another indefinite hunger strike to demand the Bill, which creates a national ombudsman. Lokpal empowered to investigate charges of corruption against elected representatives and bureaucrats, be passed in this session.
The Bill has been passed by the Lok Sabha and is now pending before the Rajya Sabha.
The UPA government however has exactly eight days to fulfill its promise. The Winter Session ends on December 20.
It has also promised to demonstrate its commitment to carving a new Telangana state out of Andhra Pradesh by bringing a bill on it in this short session.
But prospects are slim for much progress on the majority of the 38 Bills to be considered in the nearly two weeks-long session that concludes on December 20.
“We will give priority to those Bills that have been passed in one house and await passage in another,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has been under political pressure due to widespread allegations of corruption and economic slow down.
Meanwhile, protests by members of various parties on issues as wide-ranging as graft, price rises and sex crimes, have stymied the working of Parliament during last few sessions.
There are some Bills that are likely to top the government’s political itinerary during the session:
1. Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence Bill, 2011: The Bill seeks to expand the definition of communal and targeted violence, and also punish government officials guilty of negligence of duty in preventing or dealing with such incidents.
The Bill was recently criticized by BJP Vice President Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi as an attempt to “target a particular community for any riots that take place.”
2. The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011: The Bill proposes setting up an independent anti-corruption ombudsman at the national level with parallel anti-graft agencies in the states.
The Bill was passed by Lok Sabha in December 2011 then blocked in the Rajya Sabha.
3. The National Identification Authority of India Bill, 2010: The Bill gives legal and legislative backing to the unique identification program and allows service providers, including government agencies, to make an ID number mandatory for accessing particular services.
A previous version of the Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in Dec. 2010.
The Bill has faced criticism by the BJP, which says the addition of all Indian residents in the ID program would “threaten the country’s security” by giving illegal migrants the same rights as citizens.
4. The Coal Regulatory Authority Bill, 2013: The Bill seeks to set up an independent regulator for the coal industry to monitor the supply and pricing of fuel in an effort to further liberalise the sector and reduce state monopoly. The Bill hasn’t faced any major political resistance.
5. The Women’s Reservation Bill: This long-debated Bill would set aside a third of the seats in national and state legislatures for female representatives.
The Bill was passed by the upper house, or Rajya Sabha, in March 2010 but has so far failed to reach the Lok Sabha or the lower house, for discussion.
Although Bharatiya Janata Party, along with left-wing parties have backed for the Bill, it has been opposed by regional parties like the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
6. The Direct Taxes Code Bill, 2010: It aims to replace the country’s archaic income tax laws with simple tax procedures designed to reduce tax exemptions and lower tax rates.
The Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha, India’s lower house of Parliament, in August 2010 and later referred to a special committee on finance for its analysis.
Presently, the Finance Ministry has been working on the official amendments so that it can be taken up for discussion during the current session.
7. The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008: The Bill raises the limits on foreign investment from current 26 per cent to 49 per cent and also formulates rules that would permit foreign firms to invest in reinsurance companies.
The Bill was initially introduced in Rajya Sabha in December 2008 and later referred to a special committee to re-examine it.
The proposed legislation is likely to find disapproval in Parliament as opposition parties including the BJP are against allowing greater foreign investment in insurance companies.
Leader of Opposition (Lok Sabha) Sushma Swaraj made it clear that several political parties have unanimously pitched for an extension to discuss contentious issues, such as the proposed ‘Rayala-Telangana’ Bill or coal allocation scam.
The Parliament will meet in February for the budget session but the focus then will largely be on the vote of account, which is typically a sanction of Parliament to withdraw money from the federal government fund to meet its expenses for the few months before General elections.
Pressure from Gandhis to decriminalise homosexuality
Govt thinking of ordinance to nullify the SC verdict
After the Supreme Court setting aside the Delhi High Court judgment decriminalising homosexuality and upheld section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), with support from the Gandhi family to the Gay rights, government is planning to bring ordinance to nullify the SC verdict.
On PIL filed by an NGO fighting for gay rights, HC allowed plea of gay rights activists and legalises gay sex among consenting adults in July 2009. Later on, many religious organisations, rights activists and yoga guru Ramdev’s disciple had opposed the judgement. On the appeal SC has directed the cause to practice self-restraint when reviewing the constitutionality of laws. In a rare reaction to the court order, Congress President Sonia Gandhi issued a statement saying that “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has reversed the previous Delhi High Court ruling on the issue of gay rights.” Taking a clue, Government sources indicated an ordinance could be brought to amend section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, under which conviction attracts a maximum sentence of life in prison. Law Minister Kapil Sibal said the government has not abandoned efforts to make homosexuality legal. The court has clearly indicated amendment and government is working over ordinance. The question is whether it can afford to do so when Parliamentary session is in progress.
Congress faces ‘no-confidence’ from own MPs
with more problems for Congress on the Telangana issue, six party MPs from Seemandhra region gave notice for moving a no-confidence motion against the Manmohan Singh government. In the letter, they sought permission to move a motion expressing no-confidence in the Union Council of Ministers under Rule 198 of the Rules of Procedures and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
The plan of the MPs appears to be to embarrass the government on the Telangana issue by seeking support of those who are opposed to the division of Andhra Pradesh. Lawmakers from two other small parties of the state, the Telugu Desam Party and the YSR Congress, also submitted similar but separate notifications. With the hint of support from Mulayam Singh Yadav to support such move on the ground that government tabled the proposed anti-corruption Lokpal Bill without consulting it. Though government may not face immediate threat with paralysed Parliamentary proceedings and BJP not supporting any move of no-confidence, it has certainly caused major embarrassment for the ruling party.