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Insurance hopes rest on Opposition split

New Delhi, Aug. 1: The Narendra Modi government has braced itself to table the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, its hopes resting on its ability to splinter the Congress-led Opposition fire-walling the endeavour.

The non-BJP spectrum opposing the bill does not include the AIADMK, Biju Janata Dal and, surprisingly, Congress ally NCP.

The line-up of parties on the bill — the Modi government’s first step towards unspooling big-ticket reforms — is expected to again test the BJP’s parliamentary skills in splitting the Opposition, sources said.

Union ministers have claimed the Congress’s “dissent” against a move the party was keen to push when in power was a “cynical” turnaround to “spite the BJP”.

The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill seeks to raise the FDI cap in the sector to 49 per cent from 26 per cent.

Last month, the Congress had tried but faltered in its bid to galvanise the Opposition to block the Trai Act amendment to facilitate the appointment of Nripendra Mishra as principal secretary to the Prime Minister.

The BJP and its NDA allies are in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, with only 56 MPs. The Congress and its “tactical associates” — which include the Trinamul Congress, Samajwadi Party, BSP and the Left — add up to 137.

The MPs of these parties today petitioned Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to send the bill to a select committee, saying it needs to be discussed, analysed and vetted further. Congress spokesperson and MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi said: “We support the bill as far as increasing the FDI cap is concerned. But there are certain issues that need to be clarified. Therefore, we want it to be sent to the select committee.”

Trinamul, Left and Congress MPs had made the same demand when they met junior parliamentary affairs minister Prakash Javadekar yesterday. “We will deal with the consequences,” Javadekar reportedly told them.

BJP sources claimed a similar “touch-and-go” situation had arisen in the upper House when the Trai amendment was moved but the Opposition got neutered when Trinamul, the BSP and the Samajwadi pulled punches, leaving the Congress virtually isolated.

But Trinamul MP Derek O’Brien ruled out such a possibility this time. “On (insurance) FDI, there is no way we will reconsider our stand,” O’Brien said.