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Opposition combative on BJP government's ordinances
Sunday January 11, 2015 7:40 PM, Sreeparna Chakrabarty, IANS

Bypassing the logjam in parliament, the Modi government has promulgated a slew of ordinances on various issues to gain investor confidence -- but going by the opposition stance, it would not be easy to secure the legislative nod for them.

The slew of ordinances, unveiling major policy decisions post-winter session of parliament, has the opposition up in arms against what it terms "dangerous efforts" to bulldoze parliament.

Article 123 of India's constitution allows the government to recommend to the president to pass an ordinance -- essentially an authoritative order -- when there is an urgent need to make policy decisions into law if parliament happens to be in recess.

According to PRS Legislative Research, a think tank that works on legislative issues, ordinances must be approved by parliament within six weeks of reassembling or they shall cease to operate. They also cease to operate in case resolutions disapproving the ordinance are passed by both houses.

However, an ordinance may be repromulgated multiple times and governments have previously used this provision -- the Securities Laws (Amendment) Ordinance, 2014 was repromulgated for a third time during the term of the 15th Lok Sabha, for example.

The government has said the ordinance route was necessitated by the fact that the opposition blocked business in the Rajya Sabha during the winter session. The Rajya Sabha failed to transact any major business in the last session over many issues, the foremost being the opposition demand for a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue of religious conversions.

"The prime minister has not bothered to speak in parliament, but is ready to twist the constitution and bring in ordinances," Congress spokesperson Sanjay Jha told IANS.

Since coming to power, the Modi government has promulgated more than half a dozen ordinances ranging from raising the FDI cap in the insurance sector and diluting the land acquisition law to opening up the coal sector and legalising e-rickshaws.

Of these, the ordinances on insurance and land acquisition are the most contentious and are expected to face the toughest test in parliament.

Senior opposition leaders say that with the NDA in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, the government can get the bills passed only in a joint session.

"But for that it has to first get the bill passed in the Lok Sabha and then let it be rejected by the Rajya Sabha, which has the discretion of referring it to a parliamentary committee," CPI-M's Rajya Sabha member Sitaram Yechury told IANS.

"Thus, the possibility of these bills receiving parliamentary clearance is not too strong and the opposition in the Rajya Sabha will always try and send them to standing and select committees of the house," Yechury, a member of the CPI-M politburo, told IANS.

While the government argues that the ordinances were necessary to promote investor confidence, the opposition argues that such moves will not help improve the economy.

"Do you think the investors will gain confidence knowing that most of these ordinances might not get parliamentary clearance," asked Yechury.

The government's problems seem compounded by the president reportedly questioning the urgency to amend the land acquisition act.

Usually, a president only rubber-stamps the government's decisions. Reports said three union ministers were sent to convince President Pranab Mukherjee, who signed it only thereafter. The delegation comprised Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda and Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari.

The budget session of parliament is likely to commence in the third week of February and the opposition already seems to have girded themselves to make it a stormy affair.

The Congress seems to have specially taken to heart the ordinance on land acquisition, with the party having decided to take to the streets against the government's decision. Party sources said it has chalked out agitational programmes across all states ahead of the budget session.

Former Rural Development Minister and senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh briefed party leaders on the salient features of the ordinance and how to convey to the farmers that doing away with the consent clause will adversely impact them in the long run. The nationwide stir is aimed at painting the Modi government as "anti-farmer".

The land acquisition act is a sensitive matter with the Congress as it was the brainchild of party Vice President Rahul Gandhi.

Accusing the government of bringing the ordinance to help "vested interests", the party has pointed out that the land acquisition bill was finalised by a parliamentary committee headed by BJP leader Sumitra Mahajan, now the Lok Sabha speaker.

(Sreeparna Chakrabarty can be contacted at


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