When they are good, they are very, very good. Well, that is actually true of our MPs who, it seems, behaved so well in the just-concluded monsoon session that this turned out to be the most productive since 2000. Given the wash-out of entire sessions in the last two decades, the frequent adjournments and walk-outs, the slogan-shouting in the well of the House, the raucous display of placards, etc, the orderly conduct of the monsoon session is no mean achievement.
Much legislative work was conducted during the session, with the Lok Sabha spending half of its time on passing Bills while the Rajya Sabha was not far behind. Eighteen of the 20 Bills introduced were passed. Among them was an amendment to the insolvency law which empowered homebuyers to seek redress against defaulting real estate developers. Some of the Bills passed would have far-reaching impact. For instance, the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill is meant to ensure that bank defaulters like Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi are not able to leave the country. The passage of the Bill to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes was aimed at reassuring the OBCs of the continued support of the ruling party for their welfare. The amendment in the SC/ST law to restore the provision for immediate arrest of the suspects was a clear response to the recent apex court judgement which had prescribed a few cautionary steps before an arrest under it could take place.
Though controversial, the said amendment was politically important for the ruling coalition. The official side was unhappy that the Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2017, could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha due to the Congress members’ opposition. On the last day of the House, the Cabinet hurriedly okayed the amendments demanded by the Congress so that the Bill could still be passed in this session but it wasn’t. The Congress demanded the Bill be sent to a select committee, though it had already been passed by the Lok Sabha back in December last. The Bill became necessary after the Supreme Court held the practice of ‘triple talaq’ unconstitutional. One of the amendments the Congress Party insisted on was the provision of bail for the offending husband before the start of the trial under the proposed law. The incorporation of these amendments in the Bill would necessitate its return to the Lok Sabha for fresh approval.
Nonetheless, the fact that the parliament did not make headlines for the usual adjournments, disruptions, etc in this session is noteworthy. Maybe the Government decision to admit the no-trust motion at the beginning of the session acted as a safety valve, letting the Opposition members to vent anger and grievances in a no-holds-barred manner. The fate of the motion was doomed, yet it served to take out pent up anger. The hug-and-wink of Rahul Gandhi attracted headlines, though it is doubtful if it won him any votes. The Congress tried to make much to-do about the Rafele deal but found no takers even on the Opposition benches. It may be because the stink of corruption in a government-to-government deal is missing, or the grant of an off-sets contract to a private company which has had a wider political network dissuaded them to kick up dust. Also, the MPs do tend to be on good behaviour when a fresh election looms. With the crucial Assembly elections due later this year, and the general election early next year, may be the netas found percentage in being good boys in this session. However, the session also spotlighted the hurdles that prevent the formation of the much-ballyhooed Mahagathbandhan of all the parties which are outside of the NDA tent. The defeat of the Congress candidate for the post of deputy chairperson of the Rajya Sabha despite the fact that the Opposition had superior numbers showed the chinks in the Opposition armour — and in contrast, confirmed the superior cards that Modi continues to hold in his hands.