Budget 2016: Thanks to the assembly elections in 4 major states in coming months, including Assam and West Bengal, and indications of the hardening of stance by the Congress party, passage of the GST and other reform Bills needs a miracle now to see the light of the day.
The hopes of a possible understanding between the ruling NDA and Congress party to pass critical reform legislations, the goods and services tax (GST) Bill, the Real Estate Bill, or even the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, in the upcoming Budget session of Parliament, has almost faded.
With both the sides now focusing more on the assembly elections in 4 major states – Assam, West Bengal, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in the coming months – there is a clear hardening of stance in dealing with the issues in Parliament, too.
This has been clearly visible in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s statement during his Assam visit last week that one family (obviously referring to the Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi) is preventing Rajya Sabha from functioning smoothly, and stalling several vital Bills to take revenge for its defeat in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
To which, the Congress party has replied by making it clear that PM Modi should not expect the opposition to ‘bend over backwards’ when ‘so many charges are in public domain’.
The Gujarat land deal issue in which the opposition has demanded the resignation of Chief Minister Anandiben Patel and a clarification from PM Modi, imposition of President’s Rule in Arunachal Pradesh, suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula in Hyderabad Central University and the Pathankot terror strike — there are enough issues to disrupt legislative work in Parliament in the session.
In any case, without the Congress support, it is difficult to pass reform Bills in the Rajya Sabha, including the GST, despite the fact that the non-Congress opposition parties are in favour of supporting it, as the NDA lacks a majority in the upper house.
The Budget Session of Parliament will start on February 23 and the Rail Budget will be presented on February 25, the pre-budget economic survey on February 26, and the General Budget on February 29.
While the first part of Budget session will end on March 16, the second part will be convened from April 25 to May 13.
Though finance minister Arun Jaitley has expressed optimism about passage of the GST and other Bills in the session, the consideration of a curtailment of the session, keeping in mind the assembly elections, though it was finally avoided, is also an indication of the government’s low expectations in the budget session in getting any other substantial legislative business done besides the financial ones.
So, it will be interesting to see, how FM Jaitley plans to carry forward the reform process through the Budget for FY17 that he will present on February 29 – a model tenancy law for agricultural land as part of the larger reform process in the agriculture sector besides the steps to cleanup the tax system are among the measures expected to be announced in the Budget.
But, it would be better to wait till the monsoon, or may be the winter session, for the passage of any major reform legislation in Parliament, as the picture in terms of a change in the membership equation in the Rajya Sabha should be clear by then.