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Congress seems to have one round on insurance bill

Thursday, 7 August 2014 - 7:30am IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: dna

Congress seems to have won round one in the political showdown over the insurance bill to raise the FDI cap to 49%, upsetting the BJP-led government's timetable for its passage.

The government had to defer plans to take up the bill in Rajya Sabha thrice in less than a week with the Congress persisting that it be referred to a Select Committee, a demand which has the backing of nine other Opposition parties. The AIADMK was the latest to join the chorus.

Sources said government was continuing with efforts through one-on-one meetings with parties to get support for the bill which was tabled in Rajya Sabha where the NDA is in a minority.

The government, which had asked the Congress to convey its concerns on the legislation, said it was awaiting its response which had not come till Wednesday evening.

The issue has triggered war of words between the two sides. Parliamentary affairs minister M Venkaiah Naidu he was pained to see reports quoting senior Congress leader Anand Sharma as saying that the attitude of dinance minister Arun Jaitley at Monday's all-party meeting on the bill was arrogant. He said Jaitley was very open and fair in considering concerns of Congress.

Dubbing the comments as distortion of government's attitude, Naidu said Jaitley virtually gave Congress a blank cheque offering to Congress to suggest whatever changes or modifications they wanted in the Bill so that government could consider them right away.

"He told Anand Sharma and Satyavrat Chaturvdi that the bill and its language was of the Congress and if you want to change it, please do so," Naidu said.

As second option, Jaitley suggested that Congress and others may take more time if they want to study the Bill and the new amendments proposed by the NDA government. Jaitley offered a third option that if Congress wanted to play to its numerical strength in Rajya Sabha, they could vote against the Bill.

"This was only meant to convey that there was no justification for delaying the Insurance Amendment Bill, which had already taken ten years since Shri P Chidambaram first proposed hiking FDI in insurance sector in his Budget Speech of 2004," Naidu said.

The government sees no justification in Congress demand to refer its own bill to a Select Committee saying the NDA has made no substantive changes.

The Congress, which is refusing to budge from its stand on referring the bill to a Select Committee, is in no mood to make way for its passage ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's US visit.

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