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No insurance Bill in winter session as politics overtakes

Foreign investors looking to put more money in India’s insurance sector might have to wait longer, as the parliamentary select committee looking into the Insurance (Laws) amendment Bill appears set to miss the Friday deadline for filing its report. The committee’s chairman, Chandan Mitra of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on Monday wrote to the Rajya Sabha chairman, asking for the select committee’s term to be extended until December 12.

The insurance Bill seeks to increase the cap on shareholding of foreign investors (including institutions) from 26 per cent to 49 per cent of paid-up capital of an Indian insurance company (owned and controlled by Indians, as prescribed). The committee was originally scheduled to hold its final meeting on Thursday and give its report the next day.

The Opposition, aware the BJP-led government does not have enough members in the Rajya Sabha to push through the Bill on its own, seems to be raising the cost of cooperation. Besides, the ruling party’s strength on the select committee has come down with Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi and J P Nadda resigning after becoming ministers.

Mitra had proposed the select committee meet on consecutive days next week to clear the Bill. But the Congress party’s Anand Sharma says he has to travel to Jammu & Kashmir to campaign for the Assembly election there. The Left parties say Parliament work must take precedence at a time when the legislature is in session.

Also, when the draft report is ready, it will have to be discussed and dissent notes will have to be appended, all of which will take time.

The members of the Janata Dal United, Trinamool Congress and Congress have decided that the Bill will not be allowed to pass in the winter session of Parliament.

The Congress is clear it will not oppose the insurance law amendments, which are “our child”. But the party is playing hard to get. The Left parties have ideological differences with the amendments. The stance of the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam is not known.

It is not clear how the Bill will look in its final form. But it is almost certain that it will not be ready within time to be tabled in the winter session, which ends on December 23.

Decisions of the 15-member select committee are taken on the basis of majority views. Its deliberations reflect the stance of various political parties.

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