Ruckus expected in RS today over general insurance law

Stormy session expected in RS today over Bill regarding privatisation of insurance cos

Sources said the Opposition would be 'more aggressive' in the House on a bill about privatisation of public sector insurance companies

The government is planning action against MPs who climbed the reporters' table during the discussion on the agriculture sector. Credit: PTI Photo

After the discussion on farmers' issue in Rajya Sabha ending in a widened rift, the Opposition is gearing up for another fight with the government on Wednesday on a bill that proposes to enhance the private sector role in public sector insurance companies.

The Opposition camp has demanded that the Bill, which has crossed the Lok Sabha hurdle, be sent to a Select Committee for further scrutiny. It has the support of YSR Congress which usually backs the Narendra Modi government in Parliament though it is not a BJP ally.

BJD, another party not part of the Opposition group, was also of the view that if sending the General Insurance Business (Nationalisation) Amendment Bill, 2021 to the Select Committee can lead to some thaw in relations between the Opposition and the government, they should go for it.

Sources said the Opposition would be "more aggressive" in the House with the floor leaders leading from the front to ensure that the Bill is sent to a Select Committee.

The proceedings of the House may start on a stormy note as the government is planning action against MPs who climbed the reporters' table during the discussion on the agriculture sector.

Sources said the government wants the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021, which proposes to restore states' power to identify OBCs, to be taken up at 11 AM and conclude by 3 PM and then take up the bill on insurance.

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In a meeting of floor leaders called by Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman Harivansh on Tuesday afternoon, Congress and other Opposition parties like Trinamool Congress and CPI(M) made it clear that they would not settle for anything other than a Select Committee.

"All Opposition parties including those friendly to the BJP want it referred to a Select Committee. But the government is adamantly refusing," Congress Chief Whip Jairam Ramesh, who attended the meeting, said.

Sources said YSR Congress floor leader V Vijayasai Reddy told the meeting that the Bill has to go to a Select Committee as it goes against the Budget speech by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman earlier this year.

Quoting from the speech, Reddy told the meeting that Sitharaman has said that the government proposes to take up privatisation of two public sector banks and one general insurance company in this fiscal. However, he said, the government now wants to privatise five banks, which is not acceptable. Reddy said he raised the issue in the meeting and his party is adamant that it should be sent for further scrutiny.

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BJD's Prasanna Acharya said that if sending the Bill could help in resolving the impasse, the government should give it a try. AIADMK's Navaneethakrishnan, however, said his party would support any decision taken by the government.

CPI(M) floor leader Elamaram Kareem said, "the Bill on insurance is suicidal and will lead to complete privatisation. It goes against the latest Budget speech. This bill paves the way of giving up the controlling stakes to the private sector. If your purpose is to raise revenue, you can still do it without giving away the controlling stake. We want to remind the government that 74,000 workers protested recently against this Bill."

Besides Ramesh, Reddy, Kareem and Acharya, others who participated in the meeting included Congress' Anand Sharma, Trinamool Congress' Sukhendu Shekhar Roy and DMK's Tiruchi Siva among others. Leader of the House Piyush Goyal, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs V Muraleedharan and Vice Chairperson Bhubaneswar Kalita also attended the meeting.