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Insurance bill: No breakthrough in all-party meeting

PTI 04 Aug 2014, 16:44:19 PM IST
PTI
New Delhi: The controversial Insurance bill has been deferred for consideration in the Rajya Sabha for the time being after a meeting of the government with opposition leaders failed to break the deadlock in the face of demand to send it to a Select Committee.

The meeting, convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venakaih Naidu, could not iron out differences with the Opposition despite Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's plea that the current bill has virtually the same language and content as the previous bill of the Congresss-led UPA.

With the BJP and its allies not having a majority in the Upper House, the government sought to bring the Congress and other opposition parties on board expressing its readiness to incorporate their suggestions to ensure early passage of the first major economic reform initiative of the Narendra Modi government.

With the possibility of convening a joint session not ruled out, Jaitley told the Congress and other parties that they should either cooperate in getting the Bill passed or reject it outright and not play politics on the issue of economic reforms.

While the Congress has 69 members, other parties demanding that the bill be referred to Select Committee have sizeable numbers in the 245-member Upper House. Those opposing the bill total up to 133 members, while those in support of the bill are only 68.

The strength of parties is TMC 12, JD-U 12, SP 10, BSP 14, CPI-M 9 and CPI 2, RJD 1 and DMK 4.  BJD and NCP, which have come out in support of the government, have seven and six members respectively.
While BJP has only 42 members, its allies TDP has 6, Shiv Sena and SAD 3 each and RPI (Athawale) one member.
There are 11 AIADMK members, 10 nominated members, nine independents and other smaller parties together account for 12 members in the House.

After the meeting, Naidu said government told Opposition leaders that whatever meaningful suggestions come, it is willing to consider them and asked them to debate and decide the measure in this session itself.

The bill seeks to raise the FDI cap in insurance sector from 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

Naidu said the Insurance Amendment Bill was introduced in Parliament during the UPA regime and was referred to Standing Committee on Finance which spent considerable time and then made certain recommendations. The government has brought this bill after taking those recommendations into consideration.

“Some of the friends in Congress party, they say these amendments have serious implications. We told them identify what are those implications you are concerned and government will address them.

“We asked them what are your specific objections and concerns. They said they will discuss among themselves and again discuss with us. We will discuss it and I am confident that we will be able to evolve a broad consensus,” he said.

The Minister said the Left has taken a principled stand that they are against FDI in any sector which government understands, but the Congress wanted FDI and it was they who proposed it.

“They brought this Bill, then both the BJP and the Congress party are on a same wavelength on this issue. And if there are apprehensions, we are ready to address them. Let us see in a day or two, I think some solution will be found to this. In a democracy any number of consultations are useful only,” he said.

“The meeting remained inconclusive. We have agreed to meet again in the next two days to arrive at a consensus on the possible formulation of the legislation,” NCP leader Praful Patel said, making it clear that it will support the Bill as it was a party to the decision when UPA cleared it.

The meeting was convened in the backdrop of nine opposition parties giving a notice to Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari for referring the bill to a Select Committee.

Though the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill had been listed in the Rajya Sabha for consideration and passage, it was not taken up today and government has decided to defer it till the time some consensus emerges on the issue.

Naidu had said the bill seeks to provide for the much desired capital inflows into the insurance sector since the penetration of insurance coverage in the country is being adversely impacted on account of inadequate investments.