Conversion row paralyses RS, tough test for insurance bill

Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister himself will have to reassure the nation.

Written by Abantika Ghosh , Manoj C G | Lucknow | Published:December 16, 2014 1:08 am

The government has lined up the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill for consideration and passage in Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, but the fresh confrontation between the government and the Opposition over the demand that Prime Minister Narendra Modi should reply to a discussion on religious conversion has cast uncertainty over the passage of the key reforms legislation.

The Upper House could not transact any business Monday as a united Opposition stalled proceedings right from the morning, first demanding that a discussion on religious conversion be taken up immediately and scaling it up after the government agreed for a debate insisting that the Prime Minister should be present and reply to the debate.

With several parties — Trinamool Congress, Left, Samajwadi Party and JD(U) — opposed to the Insurance bill and Congress not in a mood to let BJP walk away with the credit for passing the bill which was originally brought by it, the fate of the legislation now hangs in a balance. The Opposition is also gearing up to stall passage of the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill in Rajya Sabha demanding that it be referred to a select committee.

“It is very clear that the opposition does not want a discussion,” Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said. “The demand in the morning was for a discussion… And we agreed readily. If four conditions are now being attached to the discussion, it is clear that you are not ready for a discussion,” he added.

Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said the Prime Minister himself will have to reassure the nation otherwise the government’s assurance will have no impact.

“We are not a talking shop where we go on talking which is meaningless. We want the discussion to be followed up with some action… We want an assurance of action from the government. That can only happen if the PM comes and gives that assurance…,” CPM’s Sitaram Yechury said.

Those opposing the Insurance bill would relish roadblocks in its passage. Congress too seems to be having second thoughts despite the fact that most of its concerns seems to have been addressed with the government reworking it. The party is under pressure from a section of the MPs to not let it pass this session — basically, not before US President Barack Obama’s January visit.

As far as the coal bill is concerned, Congress wants it to be referred to the select committee. “We have no problem with one part of the legislation — the auction part. But it is equally important to see the reaction and response of states who they (the government) say would be the biggest beneficiaries. Look at the reaction of Orissa and West Bengal. Both BJD and TMC are opposed to it. How can we then buy the government argument?” Anand Sharma said.

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