Hanging insurance bill set to be pulled out for a fresh start

  • HT Correspondent, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Feb 24, 2015 07:58 IST

The government is to bring in a fresh insurance bill as it moved to withdraw the long-pending legislation from the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

The government is likely to table a fresh bill in the Lok Sabha, where it enjoys a majority, and could opt for a joint session if it again runs into opposition in the Upper House, where the NDA is in a minority.

Two others ordinances, which were to be replaced by the coal mines (special provisions) bill and the motor vehicles (amendment) bill, too, have been listed for withdrawal from the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.

The government cannot call a joint session unless one House passes a bill and the other rejects. The insurance bill originated in the Rajya Sabha and has remained pending there in the absence of the requisite numbers. The government will need the House’s nod to withdraw the bill.

As reported by HT first, pulling out the bills is in keeping with the government’s plan to bring together several contentious legislations and get them passed through a joint session where the ruling coalition will have numbers on its side.

Sources, however, didn’t rule out some last-minute understanding with the Congress on the insurance bill that aims to increase foreign investment in the sector to 49% from 26%. The bill was introduced by the UPA government in 2008.

Though the Modi government sought to address the Congress’ concern by accepting many of the recommendations of a house panel, the main opposition party continued to block the bill ahead of US President Barack Obama’s India visit.

Parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu’s had Sunday called on Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, seeking support for the government’s legislative agenda.

The Congress may respond to the government’s conciliatory gesture by agreeing to what was originally the UPA’s initiative, sources said.

Amid indications of the softening of stance by the Congress, the opposition parties was worried over cracks in the camp. “What is the need for withdrawal? They (the government) could have simply accepted in the Rajya Sabha the amendments proposed by the select panel,” a senior opposition leader said.

A section in the government, too, is worried that the Lok Sabha-first approach may antagonise the Opposition. “We just hope that the plan doesn’t backfire as the Opposition which enjoys majority in the Upper House may see it as an attempt to undermine their authority,” a senior official functionary said on condition of anonymity.

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