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CAB 2019 – Legislative Council trade off: Is BJD ‘bargaining’ a fish still in water?

Last time Parliament passed a bill for creation of legislative council dates back to 2007, when the abolished legislative council was recreated in Andhra Pradesh. And Congress was at the helm in Centre

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Bhubaneswar: The State’s political circle is abuzz with, what many call, a ‘deal’ between BJP and BJD over the latter’s support to the Citizenship Amendment Bill 2019.

Significantly, the meeting of BJD MPs with Home Minister Amit Shah on the day the Rajya Sabha was voting on CAB 2019, and the observation of Party RS members that “We expect Centre to act on our legitimate demand and we hope the bill on legislative council in Odisha would be introduced” bares it all.

Politically looking, the statements by BJD RS members reek more of a ‘political bargaining’ than a ‘deal’. In fact, the word ‘deal’ politically connotes to an agreement entered into by two or more parties for their mutual benefit. While BJD voting for CAB-2019 suits BJP in Rajya Sabha, the statements of ‘hope’ by BJD MPs show that HM Amit Shah has not given any concrete assurance. This shows there is no quid pro quo.

For which, political watchers term the confabulations between BJD -Amit Shah as ‘political bargaining’. BJD bargains its RS votes for Legislative council Bill. But is BJD bargaining for the fish that are still in water?

The last time Parliament had passed a bill for creation of legislative council dates back to 2007, when the earlier abolished legislative council was recreated in Andhra Pradesh. And Congress was then at the helm in the Centre.

Even, the bills pending for creating legislative councils in Rajasthan and Assam were passed by the then ruling Congress party in respective states.

Significantly, the Vasundhara Raje government didn’t pursue the Congress proposal, nor did the Sonowal government in Assam. The reason is the Council comes with a hefty bill on the exchequer.

For Rajasthan, the cost was mentioned at Rs 100 crore and for Assam, besides one time expenditure of Rs 68 crore, an annual recurring expenditure of Rs 19.28 crore.  

In Odisha’s case, the annual expenditure over the legislative council will be a staggering Rs 35 crore initially. The 2019-20 expenditure on Odisha Legislative Assembly has been budgeted at around Rs 50 crore, which is 28 per cent up from Rs 39 crore in 2017-18.

Importantly, when BJP governments in Rajasthan and Assam have developed a cold feet towards legislative councils, and when the Odisha BJP is opposing the BJD idea and even went to extent of labelling the legislative council as ‘Rehab House’, it’s very unlikely that BJD can ‘bargain’ with central BJP on this pertinent issue, feel political observers. Accepting BJD’s demand is akin to opening the Pandora’s box, they added.

How is it a Pandora’s Box?  As the Constitution  has left the states to decide on the creation of legislative councils, the biggest controversy it has brought in is legislative councils have been created on the whims and fancies of ruling parties.

Take the instance of Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

Andhra Pradesh had a Legislative Council from 1958, but popular actor-turned-politician CM NT Rama Rao abolished it in 1985, and the then Congress government led by YS Rajasekhar Reddy reconstituted it in 2007.

The instance of Tamil Nadu has been more intriguing. Legislative Council in Tamil Nadu has been a contentious issue in the state’s politics for the last 25 years. In 1986, the Tamil Nadu Assembly, with the AIADMK in majority, passed a resolution abolishing the second chamber. The DMK and AIADMK had a tussle over it since then.

DMK stormed back to power and had decided to restore the Legislative Council in 2010, when Parliament enacted the Tamil Nadu Legislative Council Act, 2010.

However, the AIADMK returned to power before the Council could be constituted, and the Assembly passed a resolution withdrawing the 2010 decision.

All important bottomline here is both opposition parties – BJP and Congress – are opposing creation of Legislative Council in Odisha.

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