The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, which has a majority in the Lok Sabha but not in the Rajya Sabha, managed to pass 180 bills in both houses of Parliament. This was slightly higher than the United Progressive Alliance -II (UPA) tally of 179 bills, which was the lowest figure for a full Lok Sabha tenure.
The UPA-I government managed to push 248 pieces of legislation through both Houses. The productivity of the current Lok Sabha, which sat for the last time on Wednesday, was marginally better than the previous Lok Sabha under the UPA-II government (2009-14) but lower than it was during the tenure of the UPA-I administration (2004-09), government data shows. It passed 205 bills.
According to government data, 47 of the 180 bills passed by Parliament between 2014 and 2019 were budget related. And 46 bills, which couldn’t be passed, will lapse at the time of dissolution of the Lok Sabha. Throughout its five-year tenure, the NDA government remained short of a majority in the Upper House and a strident Opposition was able to block the passage of several bills such as that criminalising instant triple talaq, despite being in a clear minority in the Lower House.
The women’s reservation bill, to reserve one-third seats in Lok Sabha and states assemblies for women, also failed to see the light of the day. The Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, which triggered protests in the north-east, also failed to get through the Rajya Sabha and will lapse. The governments associated with the 6th, 9th, 11th and 12th Lok Sabha passed fewer bills than the UPA-II tally, but none of these completed their full term. Morarji Desai was the Prime Minister in the 6th Lok Sabha (1977-79) while Vishwanath Pratap Singh headed the government in the 9th Lok Sabha (1989-91).
The 11th (1996-97) and 12th Lok Sabha (1998-99) saw former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s governments of 13 days and 13 months, respectively. The NDA swept to power in 2014 with the BJP becoming the first party to cross the majority mark in the Lok Sabha in three decades, fuelling expectation that the legislative process, which took a massive hit during Manmohan Singh’s second term, would pick up pace. The Budget session saw the productivity of the Rajya Sabha dip. During the 10 sittings, as against the available total time of 48 hours, 39 hours 51 minutes was lost on account of disruptions, causing the productivity of the House during this session to dip to 4.79%. This led Rajya Sabha chairperson , Venkaiah Naidu, to say that members need to reflect on the “dysfunctional pattern” that has emerged.
Naidu, in his customary remarks at the end of the session, said it was a “wasted opportunity” with over 95% time in the 10-day sitting lost in disruptions. Naidu said since June 2014, the Rajya Sabha passed 154 bills which came to less than a bill in two sittings. This legislative output is 34 bills less than the 188 bills passed during 2009-2014 and 97 bills less than the 251 bills passed by the Upper House during 2004-09, he said.
There is a difference between the number of bills passed by the two houses on two counts: one, some bills are introduced in the Rajya Sabha before they are in the Lok Sabha; and two, the Rajya Sabha doesn’t pass money bills although it can weigh in on them (with the Lok Sabha free to either accept or reject the Upper House’s comments). The Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die on Wednesday after it returned the vote-on-account, finance bill and appropriation bill to the Lok Sabha without any discussion, and passed two other bills. It also adopted, without debate, a resolution expressing gratitude to the President for his address to the joint sitting of Parliament at the beginning of the Budget session.
The Upper House approved the interim budget, with the Opposition agreeing to do so without discussion and taking back the amendments to the President’s address. Modi’s tenure saw the enactment of several landmark laws, including the quota for economically backward classes in the general category in jobs and education, the GST, allowing 49% FDI in insurance firms, and the first regulatory framework for the real estate sector.
Parliament also passed a law to clamp down on “benami” properties and another one to take on fugitive economic offenders. In the ongoing Lok Sabha, only 24% bills were routed through standing committees, as against 59% in 14th (2004-09) and 71% in 15th Lok Sabha, according to data from PRS Legislative Research. This has been a prickly issue for the opposition which has criticised the government for not following what it sees as the established protocol of routing key bills through such panels.
(With inputs from Smriti Kak Ramachandran)
First Published: Feb 14, 2019 10:05 IST