The government deferred the contentious Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, after having lined it up for consideration in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.
The move came after the government failed to mobilise the requisite support to ensure smooth passage of the Bill, which seeks to enhance the FDI cap in the insurance sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu tried to get the parties opposed to the Bill on board at a meeting convened to break the ice in the morning, but they remained firm on their demand that the Bill be referred to a select committee. Sources said the BJP-led government may try to bring the Bill again if it manages to drum up support after another round of talks in the next few days, possibly on Wednesday.
As it is, the options before the government are limited. One option is that it can win over the Congress and then push the Bill through.
Second, it can forget about the Congress and the Left parties — whose opposition to the measure, being ideological, is firm and final — and work on other parties.
Third, it can opt for a joint sitting of both Houses and then have it passed in the same manner as the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led government enacted POTA.
The Congress game is simple: When the BJP did not help it pass this Bill all these years, why should it help the BJP pass it now?
Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Ghulam Nabi Azad of the Congress, said, “We are totally in favour of FDI…It is our baby and it was the BJP which was opposed to the Bill in 2008… We have recommended that substantive issues like the FDI, which have been diluted by the FII, along with other issues should be discussed, examined dispassionately and objectively by the select committee…The Bill can be passed in the Winter Session and we will ensure its passage.”
The meeting was attended by Anand Sharma and Satyavrat Chaturvedi of the Congress, Ram Gopal Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, Satish Misra of the BSP, K C Tyagi of the JD(U), Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress, Kalptaru Das of the BJD and Kanimozhi of the DMK.
Sources say Jaitley placed a file in front of Anand Sharma and said he could make whatever changes he wanted in the Bill. The measure, he told Sharma, had the same language and content as the Bill brought in by P Chidambaram.
He said no major amendments were proposed and noted that most of the amendments suggested by the Standing Committee related to change of dates and numericals and were not consequential. Jaitley said the Congress could defeat the Bill, if it so wished.
Jaitley and Naidu voiced their concern over grossly inadequate insurance coverage provided to people and referred to the need to enable sufficient capital flows into insurance sector.
Sharma, on the other hand, sought to know why was the government was in a tearing hurry.