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Govt to feel winter chill in House over pending Bills

Gyan Varma & Kavita Chowdhury/New Delhi 21 Nov 12 | 12:33 AM

It’s not just the contentious issue of the foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail that the Opposition wants to corner the government over. There is a whole range of legislation the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is desperate to get passed in Parliament this winter session to shake off its image of being hit by “policy paralysis".

With ally-turned-foe Trinamool Congress joining the Opposition to embarrass the government in Parliament over issues such as FDI in insurance, the UPA may find the situation difficult to deal with.

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Finance Minister P Chidambaram recently said the government had a heavy legislative agenda “if it was allowed to work" for the winter session".

However, before the UPA can get down to work, it will have to defeat a no-confidence motion on the floor of the House, being brought in by the Trinamool.

The monsoon session, which was virtually washed out, has exacerbated the UPA’s anxiety regarding its long list of pending Bills. Just before the start of the winter session, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has again demanded Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s resignation on the coal block allocation scandal.

Some of the crucial financial sector Bills that the Manmohan Singh-led government wants to get the green signal on — especially now that it has fast tracked the economic reforms process — include Insurance Bill, Banking Laws Amendment Bill, PFRDA Bill, Companies bill, and the Forward Contract Regulation Act (Amendment) Bill.

Other crucial non-financial business in the House include the all important Lok Pal Bill, several long-pending educations Bills and the Land Acquisition Bill.

Pending Bills would make the winter session a tough one for UPA
Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) Bill
  • BJP: Had sought an option of assured returns for investors, similar to Employee Provident Fund. BJP wanted FDI cap of 26 per cent to be included in the Bill
  • UPA: Government now has agreed to include FDI cap in the Bill. However, in case insurance has 49 per cent FDI cap, pension will also have the same
Companies Bill
  • BJP: Wanted corporate social responsibility (CSR) to be made mandatory
  • UPA: Though the Bill proposed by the government makes CSR mandatory, companies can give reasons for not spending on CSR
Banking Laws Amendment Bill
  • BJP: Wants cap on voting power of stakeholders to be increased to 26 per cent from 10 per cent in private sector banks
  • UPA: Government has agreed
Insurance Law Amendment Bill
  • BJP: Wants FDI in insurance to be limited to the present 26 per cent
  • UPA: Government proposes to increase FDI in insurance to 49 per cent
Forward Contract Regulation Act (Amendment) Bill
  • BJP: Will support if government accepts the recommendations of the standing committee of finance. The idea was first made during NDA regime
  • UPA: Faced problems because of opposition from the Trinamool Congress. Bill expected to be presented in winter session
Lok Pal Bill
  • BJP: Rajya Sabha’s select committee submits report, PM brought under Lok Pal with safeguards. BJP wants all recommendations to be accepted
  • UPA: Congress opposing inclusion of Prime Minister, but under pressure from allies and opposition

Even as the Centre has got crucial Bills, such as the pension reform and insurance Bill, cleared in the Cabinet, it could face stiff opposition from the Left parties and Trinamool Congress, who are dead against any sort of foreign investment in pension and insurance sector.

The BJP might be more amenable to the UPA on these issues, if the government accepts recommendations of the Yashwant Sinha-led standing committee on finance.

Speaking to Business Standard, Congress spokesperson P C Chacko said, “Getting economic Bills cleared is the priority of the government but we first have to clear the political hurdle of defeating the no- confidence motion." The problem, as the Congress sees it, is that even as the Trinamool Congress is no longer sabotaging the government’s reforms agenda, since it quit the government in September, the UPA is 19 MPs short nevertheless, and would need to garner support from other political parties.

“The Bahujan Samaj Party and Samajwadi Party render external support to us but that is issue-based support. So, their stand on issues such as pension reform and insurance is not known clearly. We will have to take up every issue with them, and seek their support," Chacko adds.

Exuding confidence Chacko says, “Once we manage to defeat the no-confidence motion, political parties, we hope will not let us down on the other legislative business."

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