Lalitgate and Vyapam will hit legislative agenda.
While Madhya Pradesh chief minister finally said he would request a CBI inquiry into the Vyapam scam, the Congress party has upped the ante and now wants a Supreme Court-monitored probe. The government would be well advised to accept this without wasting time since, without this, it is certain the monsoon session can be written off. Indeed, the government’s handling of Vyapam, and Lalitgate before that, has largely been one of radio silence—not the best strategy when the charges, particularly in the case of the mysterious deaths in the Vyapam case, are so serious. It hasn’t helped that, along with the Opposition, several farmer bodies have also expressed their reservations as far as the compulsory clause in the land acquisition Bill is concerned. The fact that the government needs the support of the TMC, the BJD and the NCP to get the land Bill through the Rajya Sabha makes it unlikely the Bill will get passed in the monsoon session.
And, in the case of the GST Bill, the fact that the chief economic advisor has also expressed his reservations over the 1% tax, and said that it will hurt Make-in-India, will surely add to the Opposition’s firepower. Indeed, given the limitations of the Bill—keeping petroleum and real estate out of the purview of GST limits its usefulness in a big way—it would be better to miss the deadline of April 1, 2016, for its implementation and instead work with the Opposition and others to come up with a more satisfactory legislation. A thorough discussion on what the Select Committee recommends is a good starting point. The government, of course, will have to work on a larger strategy to get legislative business through since it is clear a united and emboldened Opposition is going to make it fight tooth and nail to get any Bill passed. This is pig-headedness on the part of the Opposition, but given how the BJP disrupted so many sessions of Parliament when it was in the Opposition, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Since getting his legislative agenda through will be a big challenge for prime minister Modi, apart from dealing with the opposition better and getting allies together, he would do well to pick his battles—as this paper has argued before, the land Bill can easily be left to the states since this is not really a central issue anyway.
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