Jammu & Kashmir: Home minister Amit Shah cleverly used surprised element in a difficult situation to outmanoeuvre the opposition rather than taking easy route of Lok Sabha.
Article 370: Home minister Amit Shah Monday stunned the opposition by moving two bills and two resolutions related to Jammu & Kashmir in the Rajya Sabha. The decision will completely change the strategic landscape in South Asia by abolishing the special status given to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Indian Constitution. The first resolution moved by the home minister, if approved by Parliament, will extend all provisions of the country’s constitution without any modification and exceptions to the state. Through the second resolution, the President Ramnath Kovind has referred a bill to reorganise the state of Jammu & Kashmir in two distinct union territories – Jammu and Kashmir with a legislature, and strategically located Ladakh as a separate union territory without a legislature. The decision to move them in the Rajya Sabha, where the government still lacks a clear majority unlike the Lok Sabha, surprised many. But by doing so home minister Amit Shah caught the opposition completely unprepared.
Why Amit Shah chose Rajya Sabha
Home minister Amit Shah’s decision to move these bills in the Rajya Sabha surprised many as it was considered graveyard for government bills in the Modi government’s first term due to lack of majority. It still lacks the majority in the upper house, a fact admitted by Prime Minister Modi while replying to a debate in the Rajya Sabha on a motion of thanks to the Presidential address at the start of this session.
Modi government last week secured a major symbolic victory in the upper house when it was able to push through the Triple Talaq Bill. The apparent division in the opposition gave it the confidence to move Kashmir related resolutions in the upper house despite the lack of numbers.
Given its clear majority in the Lok Sabha, a decision to introduce the bill in the house to fundamentally alter the status of Jammu and Kashmir was an easier route for the government. However, it would have alerted the opposition parties, particularly the Congress to prepare a counter-strategy and also mobilise other parties to oppose the bill in the Rajya Sabha where an united opposition can still block the government’s agenda.
Amit Shah’s decision to introduce the bills in the Rajya Sabha shows both his confidence and clever use of surprise element that stunned the opponents.
By introducing it in the Rajya Sabha without circulating the advance copies of the bill, the government was able to catch the opposition unprepared in a house where it is still on tricky wicket. But the move gave surprise element over its rival. It also shows home minister Amit Shah’s confidence to tackle the opposition in the house which has been a challenge for the government in the last five years.
Under the Constitution, a bill can originate in any house. However, Lok Sabha has exclusive powers in case of Money bills which can only be introduced in the lower house with the approval of President.
Venkaiah Naidu’s waiver made it easier
“These two bills were introduced in the Rajya Sabha because they relate to reorganisation of a state and being a Council of states, this kind of bills are usually moved in the Rajya Sabha,” said a senior official in the Rajya Sabha.
“Rajya Sabha Chairman gave the waiver for moving the resolutions and bills in the Rajya Sabha, the senior official told Financial Express Online adding that Rajya Sabha’s chariman’s decision enabled the government to introduce and take up the bill without circulating advance copies to members.
How Amit Shah overcame the hurdle in use of surprise element
Under the rules, after the introduction of a bill in the Rajya Sabha, a motion to consider the bill can only be moved after supplying the copies of the bill to Rajya Sabha members at least two days before the date of discussion.
Derek O’ Brian, chief whip of Trinamool Congress, raised a point of order against the motion moved by home minister Amit Shah as under rule 69 of Rajya Sabha’s rules and procedures, members can object if a bill is taken up without supplying advance copies to them.
However, under the same rule, Rajya Sabha chairman also has the power to allow the consideration of a motion. The rule permitted home minister Amit Shah to introduce the bill and take it up for the discussion the same day, leaving the opposition camp stunned and divided.