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From: S G Naravane
From: S G Naravane
Out-Of-The-Box Ideas For Modi Govt To Get Around Cong-Created RS...R Jagannathan27 Jan, 2016
If the Modi government is to salvage the remainder of its three-plus-year term, it has to push both the legislative envelope in parliament and executive action outside it to bypass Congress and Left obstructionism.
If the Modi government is to salvage the remainder of its three-plus-year term from legislative blockades and logjam, it has to think out of the box. Whether it is the goods and services tax (GST), or the land bill or privatisation of public sector banks or other companies, it has to push both the legislative envelope in parliament and executive action outside it to bypass Congress and Left obstructionism.
There is, in my view, no point in trying to placate the Gandhi dynasty repeatedly to get things done in the Rajya Sabha, especially by going easy on the National Herald case or the Robert Vadra land grab. Atal Behari Vajpayee let the Gandhis off the hook on Bofors by not even questioning Sonia Gandhi on the payoffs (Ottavio Quattrochi was her pal, and the payoffs to him needed her to at least be questioned, but this never happened). But there was no gratitude from the Gandhi family for this huge political favour shown to them, possibly at the behest of Brajesh Mishra, the then PM's all-in advisor.
So letting the Gandhis off lightly by executive inaction in their cases should not even enter the discussion. The Gandhis will swallow the favours and still work against the government. But in order to get things done before 2019, the Modi government has to move smartly – both legislatively and outside the legislative domain. Here's what it could do.
First, it should use the first half of the budget session to pass all the laws it wants to in the Lok Sabha, and then hand them over to the Rajya Sabha. The upper house will, presumably, bottle them up, but it cannot do so indefinitely. At some point, if the laws are neither rejected nor passed, there would be a case for calling a joint session of parliament, where the NDA has the upper hand. So, even if the laws, amended or modified, are passed a year later, it is worth investing the time in them now.
The repeal of all nationalisation acts, giving Aadhaar legislative backing, the creation of a public sector golden share where economic rights can be separated from voting rights are some examples of legislation that can be passed. The bankruptcy code too can be passed, possibly as a money bill, though the government seems to have had second thoughts on that.
Second, we know the GST is stuck. After the imposition of President's rule in Arunachal, and the Rohit Vemula suicide, it would be foolish to expect the Congress to be in a benign mood during the budget session. So Arun Jaitley has to think up a different way to progress. For example, is there any reason why the GST cannot be applicable only to central excise and service tax?
What prevents the government from framing a new Central GST law that unifies central excise and service tax, with the same setoffs now available for excise? The states can join in later. Also, what stops the government from even allowing setoffs of specified state VAT payments in the central GST rate?
Third, privatisation may need legislation, especially for companies that were nationalised through acts of parliament. But surely the sale of assets is possible. Take the case of ITDC. What stops the centre from selling a hotel or two, with some of the staff attached, who can also be given generous handshakes, from selling the asset without privatising ITDC? ITDC would become a shell company, but it would remain in the public sector.