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The Narendra Modi government will face its first acid test on Rajya Sabha floor management on Monday when the insurance Act amendment bill comes up in the House.
Nine Opposition parties have sent a notice to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari, demanding that the bill be referred to a select committee. These parties — the Congress, two Left parties, SP, BSP, DMK, JD(U), Trinamool and RJD — enjoy a total strength of 133 members in the Upper House. Two key fence-sitters with a total of 18 MPs — the AIADMK and the BJD — have not yet joined the bandwagon.
The ruling NDA has just 61 MPs in the House which currently has 242 members. It needs to get at least AIADMK, BJD, Trinamool, BSP and SP on board to pass the bill in case the Congress sticks to its opposition.
However, Trinamool’s Sukhendu Sekhar Roy expressed doubt about the Opposition’s unity. “As of now, there are nine parties seeking the bill’s referral to a parliamentary panel. But do not know about the future,” he said.
Sources said that NDA managers are trying to get some of the Opposition members drop their demand. Talks are also on with a section of the Congress, which is perceived to be pro-FDI in insurance.
The government’s argument is that its bill has incorporated all 68 amendments to the insurance Act moved by the UPA government. The Congress-led Opposition group, on the other hand, says that 11 new amendments brought by the NDA government, including one on allowing Foreign Institutional Investors (FIIs) in the sector, should be reviewed further.
Although former finance minister P Chidambaram had welcomed the NDA’s move to push the bill, his party colleague Sudarshan Nachiappan said, “We are opposed to the entry to FIIs in insurance companies. They are unreliable and volatile investors. Has Chidambaram seen the new amendments?”
The NDA is in no mood to refer the key reform bill to a select committee as it wants to send a strong signal to investors by passing the bill which is pending before Parliament since 2008.