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Reform pains: Government braces to contain noises within
Sunday December 14, 2014 7:13 PM, Prashant Sood, IANS

As it battles negative public perception over controversial remarks by some BJP MPs and activities of rightwing fringe groups, the NDA government also has to brace up for growing resistance over its reform agenda from the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh (BMS), a RSS-inspired labour organisation which is planning public protests in the coming days.

The BMS has opposed the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, that was passed by the Lok Sabha Friday and the Insurance laws amendment bill, which is likely to be taken up in the Rajya Sabha in the coming week. The coal mines bill sets the norms for the auction of 204 mining blocks that had been ordered cancelled by the Supreme Court in September.

BMS general secretary Virjesh Upadhyay said that the coal mines bill will lead to "private companies exploiting the mineral resources of the country" and hiking FDI in insurance from 26 percent to 49 percent was not in the national interest.

He said that labour organisations in the country have decided to go to the people since the government appears determined to go ahead with the two bills.

"They (the government) will face consequences in the coming days if not immediately. We will go to the people who are the ultimate authority," Upadhyay told IANS.

He said a meeting of various labour organisations has been called in Delhi Dec 26 to chalk out the next course of action.

Upadhyay said there would be protest if the insurance laws amendment bill was passed. He said coal sector unions would decide about their protest Dec 16.

The BMS, Upadhyay said, was India's largest labour organisation with a membership of over 20 million. It is "inspired" by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, which is also the ideological fountainhead of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

While the government has to contend with likely protests from trade unions over its reform measures, it has been battling uproar in parliament and outside over controversial remarks of some party leaders.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi had to intervene to settle a controversy over union minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti's objectionable remarks made at a public rally in Delhi.

Days later, BJP MP Sakshi Mahraj made controversial remarks about Mahatma Gandhi's assassin Nathu Ram Godse before retracting them and expressing regret.

The two houses were also rocked by alleged forced conversions in Agra and plans of an RSS affiliate to have a similar event Dec 25. A BJP leader made remarks terming conversion as "ghar vapsi" while another
talked about forefathers of Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah having changed their religion.

BJP leaders said that controversial remarks of some party leaders had provided fodder to the opposition and the prime minister was concerned over it.

BJP sources said MPs whose remarks had created controversies had been cautioned by the leadership.

But they also said that some MPs were first-timers and from rural background and do not understand that any controversial sentence will be repeatedly played in an age of "24x7 media."

BJP's national spokesperson Nalin Kohli said the government's focus was on development and sought to downplay opposition of the BMS to reform measures of the central government.

"Every organisation is within its rights to have a stand on an issue. The government takes a stand which is in the best interests of the country," Kohli told IANS.

"The focus of the government is clear. It is about development, reviving India's story and providing governance after a decade of lack of it," he

(Prashant Sood can be contacted at )

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