‘Unsure’ govt considered dropping nuclear bill till last minute

The government was unsure of consideration and passing of the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill till 2.10 pm on Wednesday and even thought of dropping the bill after receiving “reports” of rethink in some non-UPA parties on supporting the piece of legislation in the Lok Sabha.

Though the BJP assured its support to the bill on Tuesday itself and SP and RJD chiefs Mulayam Singh Yadav and Lalu Prasad Yadav showed no interest in opposing it, the government managers were unsure of its passage for “some reasons”.
A UPA leader on Wednesday night conceded that there were some apprehensions among the government about a fate of this controversial bill. But at 2.15 pm, science and technology minister Prithviraj Chavan moved the bill and the main Opposition BJP fielded former Union minister Jaswant Singh to back it with some riders.
A coming together of the Congress and the BJP on this bill against the backdrop of sharp opposition on the nuclear deal with the US in the UPA-1 has set the process of marginalisation of regional parties.
Now, the Left parties trying to unite non-Congress and BJP parties will have rethink about its strategy inside and outside Parliament. “The passing of this bill is politically significant,” a Union minister felt.
But a section of the BJP fears that “non-political forces” played a key role behind the scene in bringing the main Opposition closer to the ruling Congress.
The passing of this bill is no doubt a significant development for the government ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to India, scheduled in November.
The discussion on the bill also saw a rare bonhomie when Congress and BJP members each other’s backs after reaching a consensus on the proposed legislation.
Mr Chavan was the first one to reach out to the Opposition when he gave credit to the erstwhile NDA regime for initiating the civil nuclear bill. “I would like to acknowledge here the work done by the then government in 2002 (NDA) to start thinking about enacting a civil nuclear liability regime. The then government could not complete its task, which fell to our domain to take that task further,” Mr Chavan said while moving the bill.
The BJP was not behind in showering praise on the UPA government for the manner in which tried to build a consensus among parties on the legislation. “I must sincerely commend minister of state Prithviraj Chavan for the energy, application and assiduity with which he has worked towards achieving a consensus. I have known him for quite a few years and I have always commended and complimented him on his commitment,” senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh, who initiated the debate on behalf of his party, said.
He also commended Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee for his efforts.
“I am grateful also to Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee who did us the courtesy of consulting with us without which several of the consultations would perhaps have not reached the stage of a consensus,” Mr Singh said.

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