Modi government unsure about calling joint session after Shiv Sena, Akali Dal oppose land bill

New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): With the prime minister Narendra Modi government going hammer and tongs using its majority in Lok Sabha to clear legislative agenda, an uneasiness is creeping within the government in view of the attitude of its allies, who are also opposed to the controversial land acquisition Bill. In the wake of these bills getting defeated in Rajya Sabha, the ultimate trump card for the government was to call a joint session of Parliament.

But with the attitude of its allies, particularly the Shiv Sena and Akali Dal, openly opposing the clauses of land Bill, it becomes difficult to cobble up a majority even in the joint session. On its own, BJP has only 327 MPs (Lok Sabha 281+Rajya Sabha 46) out of a total strength of 788.

If all NDA allies come together, the government can sail through, but with a wafer thin majority. The NDA numbers in both Houses add up to 395, while the opposition strength is 393 MPs.

The government is planning to bring land acquisition Bill in Lok Sabha on Monday, promising to incorporate a few suggestions, but without changing the core of the legislation. The Lok Sabha also passed on Wednesday another Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill to replace the Ordinance promulgated on December 26, rejecting all amendments brought by the opposition parties.

The alarm bells have rung in the government after a united opposition forced an amendment on the failure to get back black money in the official motion of thanks to the President in Rajya Sabah and apprehend a repeat of such act in the joint session. The Ordinances get lapsed if not passed within six weeks of start of the Parliament session, i.e. April 4 in this case? Finance minister Arun Jaitley has been giving veiled threats to the Opposition to go for a joint session of Parliament if the Bills are blocked.

There have been three precedents of the joint sessions summoned and the stalled Bills passed. Even if all the NDA allies vote together, the skeptics in the government feel it was too risky as the fall of a Bill would amount to defeat of the government.

Rare instrument
The joint session is a rare law-enacting instrument used rarely, last time by the Vajpayee-led NDA government on March 26, 2002 to get the contentious Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) passed. The other two laws enacted by the joint session were Dowry Prohibition Bill on May 9, 1961 and Banking Service Commission Repeal Bill on May 16, 1978.
The President is empowered under Article 108 of the Constitution to summon a joint session of Parliament on the advice of the government “for the purpose of deliberating and voting on the Bill”. There are, however, three caveats: If a Bill passed by one House but rejected by the other, or if disagreement between the two Houses on amendments to the Bill, or when more than six months have lapsed after the date of receipt of the Bill by the other House without passing it.

Meanwhile, the Congress has declared its firm resolve to defeat the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill in the Rajya Sabha despite it being its own baby that remained stuck in the Rajya Sabha since 2008. Though the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday is its new avatar based on an Ordinance promulgated by the government in December, Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhavi made an alibi for not supporting the Bill on the ground that the government has not accepted the recommendations of the all-party standing committee.

The true reason for distancing from the Bill originally conceptualised by Manmohan Singh government to give a push to the insurance sector is to send out a signal to the opposition parties that the Congress will never break the Opposition unity achieved in the Upper House, no matter that it has to compromise on the principles.