NewDelhi/Nagpur: With no consenus in sight and the government facing a number crunch in the Rajya Sabha, the contentious land bill may be referred to a joint committee of both Houses of Parliament and the GST bill to a select committee of the Rajya Sabha.
Government is likely to inform Parliament in this regard after firming up the decision on the two issues at a meeting of BJP Parliamentary Party on Tuesday morning, party sources said.
It is likely to bring a motion in Lok Sabha for setting up of an over-30 member joint committee to examine the land bill. The motion could then be taken to Rajya Sabha to approve names in the committee from the Upper House.
Almost the entire Opposition is against the land bill that proposes changes in the earlier law of 2013 in this regard.
The select committee on GST could have either 15 or 21 members. While AIADMK is the only party to have declared its opposition to the economic reform measure, Congress is insisting that it should be sent to a Select Committee for examining the changes that were brought into it by the NDA dispensation.
The main Opposition party, which treats the original GST bill as its “own baby”, is learnt to have assured Government that it will support the bill for passage in the next session and it could then be brought even as early as on the last day of the first week of the Monsoon session.
A senior government functionary speaking on the condition of anonymity said that the government is keen that GST is approved as early as possible with the widest-possible consensus.
Being a Constitutional amendment bill, it is required to be passed by both Houses of Parliament by a two-third majority. The Bill will then need ratification of more than half of 29 states before scheduled roll out in April next year. GST was first mooted 12 years ago but couldn’t be approved as states feared curbs on their fiscal powers.
The GST bill was approved by Lok Sabha on Wednesday after a walkout by Congress, whose floor managers in the Rajya Sabha have made it clear to the government that it will not be possible for them to back the bill without referring it to a Select Committee.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venakiah Naidu was tightlipped on government plans on the GST issue but said, “As Parliamentary Affairs Minister I would like to take everybody along…we will take a view in BJP’s Parliamentary Party meeting”.
The emissaries from the government have already completed their discussions with political parties on the issue.
Government was hopeful of support from DMK, SP, BSP, Left and JD(U) on the issue but was apprehensive that it may become tricky for them to support the bill if Congress plays up the issue of larger Opposition unity.
The NDA government, which is woefully short of numbers in the Upper House, does not want to take any risk.
‘Let us play safe, let us take everybody on board’ is the idea. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had on Saturday said that the GST bill should be sent to a Select Committee as a number of changes have been brought in the new bill.
“We are not opposed to it. But there are new elements in the new bill, which need to be looked at. So it should be sent to the Select Committee,” Singh told reporters when asked about the Congress’ stand on the long-pending bill.
He said that while Congress is in favour of the Bill, “they have brought certain changes that are not good for the economy”.
Singh’s remarks were significant and reflect a finalisation of the stand on the issue by the party which treats GST as its “own baby” but has been opposing it in Parliament “not on content but mannerism of taking up of the bill.”
There are now only two working days left in both Houses from Monday to Wednesday.
On the land bill, Government faces a tough task as parties like Trinamool Congress and some others, which are willing to support on the GST, are in no mood to compromise on land bill.
Referring the bill to a joint committee will also allow the ruling combine to have a bigger say in the panel as having a majority in Lok Sabha, the maximum number of members of the committee will be from the BJP. A joint committee has members from both the Houses.
The bill was earlier slated to be taken up on May 8 but the government had deferred it.
The land bill (the ‘Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (Amendment) Second Bill, 2015’) was introduced in the Lok Sabha today amid strong protests from the Opposition which termed the legislation ‘anti-farmer’, as members of Congress and some other parties staged a walkout.
Some allies of NDA as well as the RSS had also expressed their reservations on the bill forcing the government to adopt a more conciliatory approach on the issue.
With the NDA yet to resolve the issue of adequate numbers in Rajya Sabha to pass the bill as most non-NDA parties remaining opposed to it, government is moving cautiously on the issue.
The government, which was earlier seeking to give another push to the controversial bill despite not having the numbers in the Upper House, now seems to have reconciled to the fate of it being sent to a parliamentary panel for scrutiny.
The ruling dispensation is likely to counter in Parliament the Congress charge of the bill being anti-farmer and pro- corporate by reeling out figures of land acquired under UPA in last 10 years for industries.
The bill, which was passed by Lok Sabha in March, could not be taken up in the Rajya Sabha following which the related ordinance had to be re-promulgated after proroguing the Upper House.
A copy of the re-promulgated ordinance was placed in the Lok Sabha on April 20 and in Rajya Sabha on April 23, the opening days of both the Houses in the second phase of the budget session.
As part of the plan to pass the land and GST bills along with some other key reform measures, the government had on Thursday extended the session of Lok Sabha till May 13 after a meeting of Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.
Sources in Parliamentary Affairs Ministry said that there have been precedents of setting up joint committees in past. The bills, which were referred to a joint committee of Parliament included The Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill, 2005, The Central Vigilance Commission Bill, 1999, The Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Rights Bill, 1999, The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 1998, The Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Bill, 1996 and The Constitution (Eightieth Amendment) Bill, 1993.