BJP dares Congress to defeat Insurance Bill

BJP dares Congress to defeat Insurance Bill

Talking tough, the Modi government on Monday dared the Congress to defeat the Insurance Bill and set the stage for convening a joint sitting of Parliament in view of its lack of numbers in the Upper House.

Insisting that the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill was the same as the one the previous UPA government had approved, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said he was open to making “some minor modifications” if the Congress suggested.

Jaitley is learnt to have made it clear to the Congress at an all-party meeting convened to break the deadlock on the Bill, which seeks to increase the FDI cap in the insurance sector from the current 26 per cent to 49 per cent.

Private insurance companies—44 in number—require Rs 60,000 crore over the next five years as additional capital, and the Bill is expected to pave the way for long-term capital investment in the sector.

“There are three options: Pass the Bill, participate in the debate and defeat it or agree to some minor modifications,” sources in Parliament quoted Jaitley as telling the Congress at the all-party meeting convened by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu on Monday morning.

BJP sources said if the Bill was defeated in the Rajya Sabha, the party would explore the option of calling a joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha to pass it.

The Congress has been contending that the NDA had diluted the Bill by removing the cap on investments by foreign institutional investors (FIIs) in the insurance sector.

“We have recommended that the substantive issues like the FDI, which has been diluted by allowing FIIs to invest, along with other issues should be discussed and examined dispassionately and objectively by a Select Committee,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad here.

He said the decision of allowing FDI in insurance was announced by former Finance Minister P Chidambaram in his Budget speech in 2004. “We have waited for 10 years. What difference does it make if we wait for another three months?” asked Azad.

On Friday, nine parties, including the Congress, the CPM, the CPI, the SP, the BSP, the DMK, the JD(U), the TMC and the RJD had written to the Rajya Sabha chairman asking him to refer the Bill to a Select Committee. 

It is learnt that the AIADMK has written to the Rajya Sabha Secretariat to include its nominee in the Select Committee.

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