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Tussle over bank bill continues

New Delhi, Dec. 12: Finance minister P. Chidambaram today ruled out resending the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2011, to the parliamentary standing committee on finance.

He said he had met Opposition leaders and discussed five key economic legislations, including the banking bill, which had been reviewed by the standing committee once.

BJP sources, however, ruled out co-operating with the ruling party on the legislations till the government withdrew a clause it introduced after the bill was vetted by the standing committee. The clause allows banks to trade in commodity futures.

It was unclear whether the government would back down or stand firm, risking a discord on the remaining key legislations — insurance laws (amendment) bill, microfinance institutions (development and regulation) bill and the pension fund regulatory and development authority bill.

The BJP and the Congress are already at loggerheads on the insurance bill. The principal Opposition party had agreed to help in the passage of the bill, provided the foreign investment cap was retained at 26 per cent.

However, the government’s decision to hike the FDI cap has forced the BJP to oppose the bill. The UPA, which does not have a majority in the Upper House, will find it difficult to push the bill through Parliament.

Conflict over these two bills could result in the BJP withdrawing its promised support on the pension bill as well. All three bills are opposed by the Left and Trinamul Congress, while the support of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP cannot be taken for granted.

“I have discussed all five economic reform bills with two leaders of the Opposition (Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley). They understand there is an urgent need. I have offered to meet them again. I sincerely hope that the principal Opposition party will cooperate,” he said.

The passage of these bills, especially the banking bill, is crucial for the government’s efforts at ushering in the second-generation reforms. The banking bill will strengthen the Reserve Bank’s oversight powers, and can pave the way for the new bank licences.

The apex bank had made it clear that licences could be issued only after this act came through.

 
 
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