Given the Congress party’s new-found aggression, including party vice-president Rahul Gandhi storming into the well of the House to push for a discussion of the Communal Violence Bill, it is fair to say politics is back. Indeed, given the Congress party was a proponent of hiking FDI limits in the insurance sector, it is difficult to justify why it now wants the Bill to be referred to a select committee of Parliament. While the party’s official stand is that the new changes, including the composite FII/FDI cap, need to be discussed as they are different from what was cleared by the committee, Congress leader Anand Sharma pretty much indicated what the issue was when he said the BJP had opposed the Bill for six years. In other words, the Congress party’s stance seems to be that what goes around, comes around. The principal aim, it would appear, is to deny the Prime Minister the ability to go to Washington in September with this achievement. With the US already upset with India’s WTO-play, not having insurance FDI sewn up will be a dampener.
While reaching a settlement with parties like the BSP and the SP to help the Bill’s passage is always a possibility—more so since the BJD and the NCP have made it clear they will go along with the government on this—it will be a tough call since the government may not be able to meet some of the demands of these parties. In the future, the government’s best bet will be to introduce all Bills in the Lok Sabha where it has a majority. Under Article 108 of the Constitution, if one House passes the Bill and the other rejects it, or keeps it hanging for more than six months, a joint session of Parliament can be called, where the NDA has the required voting muscle to get its Bills through—this, however, is a procedure that can’t be used for every Bill. In other words, the process of legislative reform will continue to be tortuous since delays will have to be factored in.