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Coal, Insurance Bill passed in Lok Sabha; Land Acquisition Act next

But that is only half the battle won for the government as the real test will come when these Bills are taken up in the Rajya Sabha next week.

Amit Agnihotri   New Delhi     Last Updated: March 5, 2015  | 08:45 IST
Coal, Insurance Bills get Lok Sabha nod
(Photo: Reuters)

A day after it faced major embarrassment in Rajya Sabha at the hands of a united Opposition on the black money issue, the government moved fast on its economic reforms agenda and got the contentious ordinances on coal and insurance sectors passed in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

The stage is also now set for the controversial land acquisition ordinance to be taken up in the Lower House on Monday.

Bills to replace an ordinance, that aims to increase foreign direct investment in the insurance sector to 49 per cent from 26 per cent and on allowing e-auction of coal blocks after the Supreme Court cancelled their allocation, were passed in the lower house amid protest from the Left and other opposition parties.

The Opposition took offence to minister of state for finance Jayant Sinha's remark that they lacked understanding of financial matters forcing him to take back his words.

But that is only half the battle won for the government as the real test will come when these bills are taken up in the Rajya Sabha next week, where the BJP lacks numbers, a deficiency that was exposed by the united opposition on Tuesday by bringing an amendment in President's address highlighting the omission of bringing black money back.

The passage of these Bills in both the houses of Parliament is critical for the government as the ordinances they seek to replace would lapse in first week of April.

Meanwhile, the Congress has declared that it will oppose the Insurance Bill in the Rajya Sabha. "We support the Insurance Bill in principle as it is our baby but we will oppose it in the Upper House" Congress spokesperson and Rajya Sabha member Abhishek Manu Singhvi told Mail Today.

According to Singhvi, the Congress is opposed to the Insurance Bill on two counts, first that the government chose to bring it as an ordinance and two that it deviates from the recommendations made by a select committee of the Upper House earlier.

The Congress is miffed that the BJP, as then main opposition, did not allow the UPA government to pass the Insurance Bill.

Speaking in Parliament recently, Prime Minister Narendra Modi indicated that the government was open to accommodating opposition's concerns on the land ordinance. Concerned over the fate of the Bills in the upper house, the government has deployed its senior ministers to talk to the opposition leaders and bring them on board. If these ordinances are rejected by the Upper House the government can still hope to pass them in a joint session of Parliament later on.

Keeping this in mind, sources said the opposition parties were trying to work out a joint strategy whereby they don't allow the Bill to be taken up in the upper house, thus allowing it to remain pending. This said the sources, would stop the government from convening a joint session of parliament as it requires passing of the Bill in one session and rejection by the other.

The government may also face another piquant situation as original Bills related to Coal and Insurance are still pending in the upper house. Last week, the Opposition had foiled a government attempt to withdraw the Bills in the Upper House after it had introduced the same in the Lok Sabha.

This was done strategically to keep the option of joint session open, said the sources. "Once a Bill is introduced in the Upper House it becomes a property of the Rajya Sabha. The Bill cannot be introduced in the other house. They have done it because they have brute majority in Lok Sabha," added Singhvi.

(Courtesy: Mail Today)

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