Monday, Oct 20, 2014

Opposition halts govt push for Insurance Bill

Congress MP Ambika Soni with CPI’s D Raja in Parliament House on Thursday.  (Source: IE photo by Praveen Jain) Congress MP Ambika Soni with CPI’s D Raja in Parliament House on Thursday. (Source: IE photo by Praveen Jain)
Written by Manoj C G | New Delhi | Posted: August 1, 2014 12:28 am

The NDA government’s plan to push through the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill to raise the FDI ceiling from 26 per cent to 49 per cent in the current session of Parliament Thursday ran into rough weather, with the opposition parties demanding that the Bill be sent to a select committee of Rajya Sabha (RS) since the amendments proposed by the government were substantial and ought to be looked into afresh.

The Bill was listed in the Upper House Thursday, but was not taken up. The Congress, whose government had introduced the Bill and was hence supportive of the legislation, sensed the mood of the smaller opposition parties and is learnt to have decided to play along in what is being seen as a tit-for-tat move. The BJP had blocked many reform legislations, including the same insurance Bill, when it was in the opposition.

The Business Advisory Committee of Rajya Sabha, which met Thursday, saw several parties, including the Left, TMC, SP, BSP, JD(U) and DMK demanding that the Bill be sent to the select committee. The Congress is learnt to have supported the demand. The government did not agree and sources said it was decided to let the House take a call on Monday regarding when the Bill will be taken up.

The government has moved 97 amendments, of which only a handful are significant. The Opposition’s reservation is on one amendment, which makes it clear that 49 per cent FDI will be a composite cap, including both foreign direct investment and portfolio investment. “This makes it a de facto new Bill… Either the government should withdraw the Bill and introduce a new one, so we can move amendments, or send it to the select committee,” CPM’s P Rajeeve told The Indian Express.

Former commerce minister and Congress deputy leader in Rajya Sabha Anand Sharma said “if the parties in the opposition are demanding that select committee should have a look at it, the government should agree”. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu had met Sharma to discuss the Bill. Sources said the Congress is divided on its stand on the Bill, but decided to play along with the rest of the opposition to put the government on the back foot. The NDA government is in a minority in the Upper House.

“If we can wait for so long, we should wait a few more months,” Sharma said. Regarding the amendment, he said the inclusion of portfolio investors is a “departure”. “FDI stays with the company for creation of the capital. Foreign institutional investors may not. Foreign institutional investment can move out. That is the difference between what we had brought in and we they are doing,” Sharma said.

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