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Lack of RS numbers no hurdle to Narendra Modi govt’s reform agenda

May 20 2014, 09:50 IST
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 The electoral college to pick members for the House consists of members of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies. The electoral college to pick members for the House consists of members of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
SummaryNarendra Modi government will not secure a lead in Rajya Sabha before 2016.

Despite the BJP getting majority on its own in the Lok Sabha with an impressive tally of 284 seats and the alliance it leads forming 61% of the crucial Lower House, the Narendra Modi government will not have secured a lead in the 245-member Rajya Sabha before 2016.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that its reform-oriented legislative agenda would suffer, analysts said, given that many of the “pending” Bills are the brainchild of the UPA which it can’t be seen scuttling.

What would also matter is whether the Modi government would adopt a consultative and consensus-building approach in the conduct of parliamentary business to avoid an escalation of political tensions. A good part of the intended reforms, going by the BJP’s poll manifesto, anyway falls purely in the administrative domain.

Indeed, the Modi government has the option of convening joint sessions of both Houses to get key Bills passed if its reform agenda gets thwarted by a hostile or indifferent Opposition (currently the NDA with 398 members in Parliament crosses the halfway mark of 394, with the combined strength of both houses being 788). But this option has been exercised only three times in India’s parliamentary history, the last being by the AB Vajpayee government which got an anti-terrorism law (POTA) passed in 2002, only for it to be repealed by the UPA government two years later. (Although a joint session was called in 2008 for the Women’s Reservation Bill, it could not be passed.)

What would temporarily constrain the NDA in its Rajya Sabha presence despite recent electoral advances is primarily that the current composition of the House is very dispersed — the BJP-led NDA’s current strength is 62 while the Congress-led UPA’s is 82, together 59% of the total strength of the House. Also, a third of Rajya Sabha members retire every second year. The electoral college to pick members for the House consists of members of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

The BJP’s and its partners’ strong showing in the elections to the 16th Lok Sabha, the BJP’s sweeping wins in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan in the assembly elections late last year, gains of NDA allies Shiv Sena and TDP in the Lok Sabha polls (also in the Seemandhra assembly polls in case of the latter) and possible NDA gains in the upcoming assembly elections (in Maharashtra, for instance) are what would

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