Reforms go down on House agenda

Tags: News

Non-controversial bills to get precedence in 10-day session

Except the insurance bill, other major economic reforms may again take a back seat in the short winter session of Parliament beginning on Thursday. It is likely that the government will take the short opportunity to push its political agenda, which itself is likely to get stymied after the assembly polls results come in on Sunday.

Effectively, the session will be able to start work only on Monday, which means Parliament will have a 10-day sitting. It is unlikely that the session will be extended by more than a day or two, if at all, a government official told Financial Chronicle.

He said the government would push for the non-controversial bills first due to paucity of time. Three bills replacing ordinances on SC/STs, giving more teeth to Sebi and amendments to the Indian Medical Council act will get priority as otherwise they will lapse.

Being the penultimate session of this UPA government, it is keen to get the women’s reservation bill and the Lokpal bill passed. Both bills were earlier passed by one House and are pending in the other.

They will lapse if not passed this session. The budget session in February will be entirely devoted for seeking a vote-on account and presenting an interim budget without any taxation proposal.

Apart from the Sebi ordinance, the other economic legislation that may be taken up is the insurance bill in whose passage the principal opposition party, BJP, is not averse to cooperating with the government. The bill that aims to increase the FDI cap to 49 per cent from 26 per cent now has been pending for several years.

But this will happen only if time permits. Finance minister P Chidambaram is likely to meet the two leaders of the opposition to evolve a consensus on the insurance bill and the direct tax code bill.

The original DTC bill is the brainchild of Chidambaram; he is keen to get it passed this session as a lot of work has gone into it. But opposition parties appear not that keen; they would rather the matter was left for the next government to handle.

With the Lok Sabha elections due in April/May, even if the DTC bill is passed it cannot be implemented from April 1 as only an interim budget would be presented in February.

The government will also want to pass two supplementary demands for grants, one for the railways and the other for various ministries. The demands will include grants for paying oil and other subsidies.

It is still unclear if the bill for creation of a separate Telangana will be tabled this session. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has expressed the government's commitment to creating Telengana.

The bill is not included in the long list of 38 bills for this session, most of which may not be taken up.

BJP has already geared itself to launching a tirade against the government. Its members may get emboldened further if the assembly results go in their favour.

Left parties are keen to bring adjournment motions in the Lok Sabha on the price situation, which could take away precious time. “Much of the tenor of the session will depend on the outcome of the assembly elections,” the deputy leader of BJP in the Rajya Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad, told reporters.

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