Even as the government gets ready for Parliament's winter session, which begins on Thursday, whether or not the constitution amendment Bill for implementation of the goods and services tax (GST) will be debated and passed in the Rajya Sabha during this session remains uncertain.
A meeting of the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will be held on Tuesday to make sure the Treasury benches are on the same page. Strategy meetings will also be held for floor coordination and the sequence in which Bills will be brought in the two houses, besides an all-party meeting before the session.
Among the Bills that are pending in the Rajya Sabha are the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2012; the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2013 (as reported by a select committee of the Rajya Sabha); the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013, the Anti-Hijacking Bill, 2014; the GST Bill (the Constitution Amendment Bill, 2014) as passed by the Lok Sabha and reported by the select committee of the Rajya Sabha; and the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 (to replace an ordinance).
The Bills that are pending in the Lok Sabha include the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (Amendment) Bill, 2015; the Bureau of Indian Standards Bill, 2015; the Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill, 2015; the High Court and the Supreme Court Judges (Salaries and Conditions of Service) Amendment Bill, 2015; and the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2014.
The first two days of the session will be devoted to paying tribute to B R Ambedkar, one of the founding fathers of the constitution, on his 125th birth anniversary.
Since there will be no question hour on these two days, the government is hoping this will set the tone for a conciliatory mood for the rest of the session. However, how the two houses will behave from November 30 will indicate whether this session is going to be a washout or not.
In the Congress, there is a view that argument and procedure - and not disruption - should be the strategy to be followed on the floor. However, with tempers rising on issues like intolerance, it might be difficult to run proceedings.
Both the Left parties and the Congress are likely to insist that a debate on intolerance introduced by them be held under a rule that entails voting. This will be strongly opposed by the government, which does not have a majority in the Upper House. It could resist all moves to have a debate, which might result in its defeat.
This is especially important against the backdrop of a newly empowered Opposition alliance after its victory in the recent Bihar Assembly elections. So, rather than raucous disruption, the Opposition will make considered interventions, such as asking why the government felt an ordinance was necessary for changes in arbitration and conciliation law.
The government's argument is that the new law (for which an ordinance was cleared just a week ago), will make settlement of contractual disputes between foreign companies and their Indian partners easier.
But the Congress says ordinances are issued on matters of urgent public interest. There was no "urgent public interest" involved in this law.
On GST, Congress leaders continue to assert that no effort has been at any outreach by government to narrow differences. They do not count informal and ceremonial meetings as substitutes for a structured meeting to thrash out substantive differences they have with the government's version of GST. However, with nearly a week to go, it is possible that a formal meeting takes place.
- With tempers rising on issues like intolerance, it will be hard to run House proceedings
- Both the Left parties and the Congress are likely to insist on a debate over the intolerance issue
- This will be strongly opposed by the government, which does not have majority in the Upper House
- On GST, Congress leaders continue to assert that no effort has been made by the government to narrow differences