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Saubhadra Chatterji and Vikas Pathak, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, November 22, 2012
The ongoing tussle over the FDI policy, which spoilt the first day of the winter session of Parliament, has not dampened the mood of the UPA government to push other economic reforms. On Thursday, it sought time from the Rajya Sabha for passing the contentious the Insurance Act (Amendment) Bill.

At the meeting of the business advisory committee of the Upper House on Thursday, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath pitched for the bill and four hours was allotted for its debate and passing. The date for the debate, however, will be decided later by the government.

The insurance bill proposes to enhance the cap of FDI from the existing 26% to 49%, among other things. Introduced in Parliament in 2008, the bill continued to face stiff resistance from the opposition as well as the UPA’s own allies.

Although finance minister P Chidambaram is talking to the opposition parties, the passage of the bill still looks like an uphill task. The BJP — whose support is crucial for the government on this issue — seems to be upset that the government has not accepted the finance standing committee’s recommendations to retain the FDI cap at 26% for the insurance sector. The parliamentary panel was headed by the BJP’s Yashwant Sinha.

“Our stand remains the same. We are not in agreement with 49% FDI in insurance sector,” Sinha told HT. The Left parties are also opposed to the bill while the SP and the BSP are yet to spell their stands.

At least four reforms related bills — amendments to insurance, pension fund, banking law, companies law and forward contracts regulations — have been listed by the government for passing in this session.

The latest move indicates that the government plans to test the waters by putting the insurance bill on the block ahead of other reforms items.