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Bill deferred, govt pleads with Congress

New Delhi, Aug. 3: The Narendra Modi government tonight deferred its plan to move the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow, saying it wanted to hold talks with the Opposition.

Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu said he and finance minister Arun Jaitley would talk to leaders of the Congress and other Opposition parties tomorrow on various aspects of the bill that seeks to raise the foreign direct investment cap in insurance to 49 per cent from 26 per cent.

“The government would like to move the bill for consideration thereafter, preferably the day after tomorrow,” Naidu said.

The Congress, Trinamul Congress, CPM, CPI, Samajwadi Party, BSP, DMK, JDU and the RJD have given a notice to the Rajya Sabha chairman for referring the bill to a select committee. If the bill goes to the committee, more deliberations will be needed.

Naidu issued a statement appealing to the Opposition to cooperate. He said the government was ready to consider any “meaningful suggestions” of the Opposition.

The government needs the support of the Congress in the Rajya Sabha to get the bill passed. The Congress is not opposed to raising the FDI cap but a section of the party feels it should not give in easily, especially since the dispute over whether to have a leader of the Opposition has not been resolved yet.

Besides, when the BJP was in Opposition, it was often accused of crippling Parliament, which helped deepen the “policy paralysis” perception that crystallised around the UPA government.

Government sources said it wanted to avoid a confrontation on the insurance bill. However, if the logjam persists, the government may explore the option of convening a joint session as the “last resort”, a source said. A joint session — an uncommon option to pass a bill — is expected to give the NDA a thin numerical edge because of its comfortable position in the Lok Sabha.

Naidu said in Hyderabad: “I fervently appeal to the Congress and the other Opposition parties to enable passing the proposed legislationů in this budget session of Parliament in the larger national interest. The spirit of constructive cooperation on issues of economic development needs to be the basis of parliamentary democracy.”

Naidu said the bill sought to provide for much-desired capital inflows into insurance. “The insurance companies have been unable to expand their reach. That’s why we are proposing this amendment.”

Naidu referred to the stand of former finance minister P. Chidambaram who had expressed the hope that the bill would be passed in the budget session.

“I agree with his comment that ‘government is a continuing entity and each government should build on what has been accomplished by previous government’,” Naidu said.

The CPI said all trade unions in insurance would go on a strike on Monday to protest against the move to raise the FDI cap.