Riding on its numbers in Rajya Sabha, the Congress will neither allow passage nor defeat of the Insurance Amendment Bill on the floor of the House, but will insist to send it to the Select Committee, to prevent prime minister Narendra Modi government to call a joint session of parliament to seek passage of the Bill. Senior Congress leaders admit, it was a political ploy to convey Modi government despite a brute majority in Lok Sabha was not in total control and they (Congress) were still players in the politics. Modi is keen for the passage of this Bill, ahead of his visit to the United States in September last week.
Party's deputy leader in the House Anand Sharma refused the government offer to bring in amendments which will be incorporated into the bill.
"This is not an issue between the Congress and the BJP which they can settle between themselves. The views of other opposition parties have to be considered. Eleven parties, including the AIADMK have written to the Chairam (of Rajya Sabha) seeking the setting up the Select Committee. The Congress will go with the other Opposition parties," he said.
He said that the government has made 11 amendments to the bill that Congress had brought to the House in August 2013, after it was referred to the finance standing committee under senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha. Three of the new amendments are substantive and these need to be considered afresh by all the parties, and this can happen only in the select committee, he argued.
He said there is need for the definition of FDI because the government's bill has included portfolio investors and foreign institutional investors (FIIs), and it is what he called a substantive change which all the parties have to consider closely.
A senior Congress leader of the House speaking on condition of anonymity explained the need for a select committee. He said it is not an issue that is to be discussed among the political parties, but the views of the stakeholders need to be taken into account as well. He said the views of the stakeholders can be elicited only in the committee stage.
Sharma also cited the example of the Lokpal Bill 2012, which was not passed in Rajya Sabha and it had to be referred to the select committee on the insistence of the leader of opposition Arun Jaitley. Sharma contended that the Congress wants the same procedure to be followed in the case of the insurance bill as well.
He has however made it clear that Congress would want the bill to be passed but only after it goes through the select committee, and that the party was committed to the bill in-principle. He reminded that the BJP had sat over the bill for six years, from 2008 when it was first introduced.
He also wondered as to why the government was in such haste after blocking the bill for six years. He hinted that the bill could be pushed through the winter session and there was no need to go through it now.
It is learned that prime minister Narendra Modi has asked the government to get the bill passed in this session on priority. It would appear that he would want to use it as a trophy for his first visit to Washington next month.