New Delhi,Iftikhar Gilani(dna): Prime Minister Narendra Modi's key reform agenda has come to a grinding halt, with a united Opposition preparing for a showdown in Parliament once the House resumes session on Tuesday. The Opposition is bracing up to block three key reform legislations – the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, the Constitution Amendment Bill for ushering in GST (Good and Services Tax) and the proposed Industrial Relations Bill 2015.
The Congress wants the Real Estate Bill and the GST legislation to be referred to either the joint parliamentary committee or the select committee on the ground that the government has inserted many amendments in the original Bills. The showdown is set to intensify, as the government was proposing to introduce the Industrial Relations Bill, that merges three Central labour laws into one, in an attempt to encourage compliance and improve the ease of doing business. Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu recently expressed government's helplessness, frankly admitting that the government was in a minority in Rajya Sabha, and as such it cannot push the Bills unless the Opposition cooperates.
The Janata Dal (United) MP K C Tyagi described this industrial relations legislation as anti-labour and the one favouring corporates. "If enacted, the Bill would not only make it impossible to set up labour unions, but companies employing up to 300 employees would not require any government approval before dismissing its workers," said Tyagi. A similar legislation was also on government's agenda in 2002, during the tenure of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, but was shot down after the JD (U) leaders – Sharad Yadav and George Fernandes then part of NDA – voiced their opposition.
The Labour Code on Industrial Relations Bill, 2015, proposes to combine Industrial Disputes Act, 1947, the Trade Unions Act, 1926, and the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946. The draft bill, currently before the Union Cabinet for its approval, shall "consolidate and amend the law relating to registration of trade unions, conditions of employment, investigation and settlement of disputes and the matters related therewith or incidental thereto."
The main worry of the government, however, is to get immediate parliamentary nod for the GST Bill, to at least show a saving grace. The discussion on the bill was postponed after introductory remarks by finance minister Arun Jaitley on April 24. Though GST, as well as the Real Estate Bill were brought up during the UPA government, the Congress seems in no mood to let the government pass these legislations.
The controversial Land Acquisition Bill to replace the ordinance has not been yet listed in the government's business for the Lok Sabha in the last week of the budget session. A top BJP source said the government may bargain to let the GST and real estate bills go to the parliamentary panels to enable their consideration only in Monsoon session if the Opposition relents on allowing consideration of the Land Bill.
The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill for regulating the real estate sector and protecting consumer interests was, in fact, listed for consideration in the Rajya Sabha also on April 29, but the government backed out and agreed to hold more "informal" discussions by deferring it to take it up on May 5. Prospects of any compromise on this Bill, however, have diminished in view of an aggressive stand taken by Rahul Gandhi by holding a meeting with some 200 home owners of the national capital region (NCR) and declaring that the government wants to defeat the very purpose of the Bill by 'diluting it in favour of the builders'.
A Congress spokesman has already put on record that the party is opposed to the manner and fashion in which the initiation of the GST regime is being pushed through by the government without appropriate discussions with all stakeholders and bringing everyone on board. "The decision of whether to refer the GST bill to a standing committee or joint select committee will be taken by the party after detailed discussions within the Congress Parliamentary Party and taking into account the broad national consensus on the issue," the spokesman had said.