New Delhi: The Insurance Bill, the NDA government's first major reform initiative proposing to raise the FDI cap in the sector to 49 per cent, will be brought to the Rajya Sabha on Monday despite no clear commitment of support by Congress and reservations of some other parties.
Amid the government's hopes of easy passage of the controversial legislation, senior ministers are believed to be in touch with leaders of various opposition parties, including Congress, in view of the fact that BJP and its allies do not have a majority in the Upper House.
The much-delayed Bill, which was listed in the Rajya Sabha agenda today, could not be taken up for discussion as the opposition wanted more time to go through the amendments, sources said.
As many as 97 amendments have been moved to the original bill and the government has circulated these among the members to enable them to study.
The Bill providing for raising the FDI cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from 26 per cent was given a nod by the Cabinet last week with a rider that management control will remain in the hands of Indian promoters. Once approved by Parliament, it would help insurance firms to get much needed capital from overseas partners. Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu expressed the hope that the Bill will “go through”.
Government sources said former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and several Congress leaders favour passage of the Bill. The Bill has come from the Standing Committee and therefore some amendments have been incorporated in the wake its recommendations, Naidu said, adding that all political parties have time till Monday to study the major bill.
Asked about reports that some Congress leaders want the Bill to be referred to the Select Committee, he said “I do not want to react as of now. No one has talked to me”. At the AICC briefing, party spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said: “it is our proposal in principle. In principle, how can we oppose it.”
At the same time, he added that the details of the Bill will matter as “devil lies in the details”.
Some other parties like Left are opposed to it.
Singhvi faulted the BJP for failure to pass the Bill during the UPA rule despite the then Finance Minister P Chidambaram holding consultations with the then leaders of the opposition—Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley.
Leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said the Bill had gone to the Standing Committee and we need to see what amendments has been brought.
“If there are new amendments, we will have to consult other opposition parties to decide whether the Bill should go to Select Committee. We will have to see the form of the Bill. Whether it is coming in the same form as we have proposed,” he said.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Budget 2014-15 speech had said that the insurance sector was investment starved and there was a need to increase the composite cap in the sector to 49 per cent, with full Indian management and control, through the FIPB route.
The approval to hike the FDI limit from the current 26 per cent, a proposal which has been pending since 2008, is expected to attract long term capital, besides improving the overall investment climate.