PM Modi's Big Reform, the Insurance Bill, Caught in Numbers Trap

PM Modi's Big Reform, the Insurance Bill, Caught in Numbers Trap

PM Modi walks with his cabinet colleagues Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Venkaiah Naidu and Rajiv Pratap Rudy, right as they arrive on the opening day of the Winter Session of Parliament on Monday. (Associated Press)

New Delhi: Plain numbers could govern the fate of the landmark Insurance Bill that represents the BJP-led government's first major legislative reform. Many parties have said they will stonewall the bill, which seeks to raise the cap on Foreign Direct Investment in the insurance sector.

Here are the latest developments in this story

  1. The bill first needs to be approved by a parliamentary committee that is reviewing its provisions. Of the 15 members of that Select Committee, five MPs support it, three Congress MPs support it but with changes to the present draft and three MPs are opposed to it.

  2. Three parties - the Biju Janata Dal, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the AIADMK - have one member each on the committee and which way they will go holds the key. A majority of the committee needs to approve the bill in its present form for it to be presented to the Houses in this session.

  3. The bill's next big test will be in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority. Along with the Congress' 66 members, 105 of the 240 lawmakers in the Upper House are against the bill. Less than 70 clearly support the bill. NDA ally Shiv Sena has said it will oppose the bill if some amendments it wants are not included.

  4. In the Rajya Sabha too, the BSP, BJD and AIADMK - parties that are yet to reveal their stand on the Insurance Bill - will hold the key. Together they have 32 crucial Rajya Sabha MPs. "Our opposition will not be irresponsible," Mayawati, Bahujan Samaj Party chief, said insisting that she would not be influenced by other parties.

  5. Though the Congress had first introduced the Insurance Bill during its term at the Centre, it has made it clear it won't make matters easy for the BJP, which had stalled it then as the main Opposition. "There is no blank cheque in legislation or politics... God and the devil lie in the details," said Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi.

  6. As the Winter Session began today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi reminded lawmakers from all parties that, "All MPs have a responsibility to run the country." He also said, "In cold climate with a calm mind we have to work; public has given us the task of running the government."

  7. Union minister Venkaiah Naidu said he was confident of winning the support of major Opposition parties. "We are committed. We want insurance reforms at the earliest and I am confident of getting the support of major opposition parties as they have all given a commitment," he said.

  8. The Trinamool Congress of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has said it will oppose the bill. So has the Left. "There is no question of passing the bill. First let it be taken up, clause by clause, in the select committee," said Trinamool leader Derek O'Brien.

  9. Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal United, Lalu Prasad Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party and the Janata Dal (Secular) of HD Deve Gowda - all with roots in the Janata Party - have said they will function as a pressure group in Parliament and will block the Insurance Bill.

  10. The winter session will continue till December 23 and will have 22 sittings. Besides the insurance bill, the government has detailed 36 other bills it wants passed, among them the Goods and Service Tax bill.

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