The passage of the long-awaited insurance bill may be delayed in the winter session of parliament because a parliamentary committee reviewing the legislation has asked for an extension until December 12 to finalise its report after the Opposition and ally Shiv Sena played hardball.
Sources said the Congress, CPI(M), Trinamool Congress, Janata Dal (United) and Samajwadi Party had united and wanted to stop the passage of the bill, one of the NDA government’s major reforms, during the parliament session which began Monday.
Adding to the BJP’s discomfort, its ally, the Shiv Sena, only offered conditional support. “We will support the insurance bill, only if the government brings some amendments,” said Sena leader Sanjay Raut.
The Insurance Laws (Amend-ment Bill) seeking to raise the foreign direct investment cap in the sector to 49% from 26% has been pending in the Rajya Sabha since 2008 due to lack of political consensus. It was referred to the Select Committee after the opposition demanded that a fresh review is required on new amendments.
“We are trying to reach the maximum possible consensus and table the report before December 12. If important amendments come, the panel can certainly consider them,” panel chairman Chandan Mitra told HT, when asked about the Sena’s position.
Sources added that the BJP is negotiating with the Congress to abstain during voting on the bill in the Upper House, allowing for easy passage of the bill.
The opposition rejected Mitra’s suggestion to hold frequent meetings to fast-track the report. “There has to be a clause-by-clause discussion, followed by a discussion on the draft report. These steps can’t be taken in haste,” said an Opposition leader.
But the government is confident the bill will be passed. “I am confident about its passage. There is no reason to suspect anybody trying to derail the bill,” parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said on Monday. Last week, participating in Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, finance minister Arun Jaitley said, “I am quite certain that it will be passed. The proceedings of the select committee from what I understand are moving in the right directions. ”
Sources suggested the Centre may drop a contentious clause allowing FIIs to invest in the insurance sector to pass the bill quickly.
The Opposition’s cold response came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi called on it to do “good work in the interest of the nation” before parliament was adjourned on Monday.
“People have given us the mandate to run the government. But everyone who has been given a place in Parliament has been given the responsibility to run the nation. It is my firm belief that the people sitting in the government and all the people sitting in the Parliament will work together for taking this country forward,” Modi said.
Mitra submitted a letter to Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to seek an extension for the panel whose deadline is set to expire on November 28.