But the excessive focus on this law has obscured the government's actual achievements over the course of the last 20 days. Six out of seven laws aimed at replacing ordinances promulgated by the government were passed during the session. Both the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha had productivity rates of more than 100%, meaning they sat for longer than was planned. And all this was accompanied by rate cuts from the central banker, incredibly successful auctions of both coal blocks and spectrum and generally positive sentiments about the Indian economy.
Modi won the first half of the Budget Session. With one rather large caveat.
Winner: Ordinance Raj
The government promulgated seven ordinances in the immediate aftermath of the Winter session, insisting it needed executive action after legislation got stuck in Parliament. The idea was to do two things: send a message to investors and industry that the Indian economy would be getting back on track and send a message to the Opposition that the government would not be cowed down.
The risk being taken was that this would be seen as Ordinance Raj, Modi running the nation by fiat. It was seen as that, to start off with, and that taint has continued to be attached to the Land Acquisition Ordinance, the only one that wasn't replaced by legislation. But the six other ordinances, including ones on Foreign Direct Investment in Insurance and changed mining regulations, have been replaced by law.
Not only does this mean the government's reforms have been passed, it also has made life easier for the government. Hastily written ordinances didn't have to spend months in select and standing committees to turn into legislation.
Winner: Modi's floor managers
It didn't seem like the BJP's floor managers would be getting much praise this session. The Opposition managed to get a dig in during the vote of thanks to the Presidential address, a rare chance to embarrass the government. It managed to stall and stymie the government's moves in the upper house. And yet at the end of the day, most of the legislation got passed, without too much amended in the meantime.
This happened by getting a few parties on board through goading and cajoling. Particularly the government made efforts to get the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Biju Janata Dal on board, with the final tally seeing even parties like the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Samajwadi Party and the Trinamool Congess vote in favour of the Coal and Mining Bills. Even the Congress helped out when it came to the Insurance Bill.
Winner: Reformist Raj
Despite a lacklustre Budget, the Modi government parlayed a number of other decisions, including that of the Finance Commission and an altered agreement with the Reserve Bank of India, to ensure the image being sent out was of an India on the move. Furthering federalism, a fresher relationship with the RBI, certain key concessions in the Budget and an immediate rate cut, make it evident that the government has taken a step forward with this session.
Loser: Modi's populist image
As was evident in his 'Mann Ki Baat' radio address on Sunday, however, it's clear Modi's aura of invincibility has been lost. That happened partially after the BJP's rout in Delhi and its decision to partner with the People's Democratic Party, a party known to pander to separatists, in Jammu and Kashmir. But it truly struck home with the Land Bill agitation that has been gathering support not just with the Opposition and the public, but even within the ruling alliance and inside the BJP.
Modi has been attempting to sell the case for reform, but his government has already lost the initiative here, with some worried that the 'anti-farmer' tag will be hard to shed, unless the legislation also goes away for sometime. But Modi has made it clear he can't do without it. Over the next month, as the date of the ordinance lapsing looms large, this is set to easily be the government's biggest challenge, both politically and in terms of messaging.
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.