By Nitya Chakraborty
The reforms lobby in the UPA-2 Government was in an upbeat mood on Tuesday afternoon after the defeat of the opposition amendments in Rajya Sabha to the President’s address by a comfortable margin. Out of the total of 245 members in Rajya Sabha, the UPA-2 has a strength of 97 with its allies including Trinamool Congress which has six members. The Congress on its own has 71 members.. This was the reason for the Manmohan Government to dither over the presentation of the important financial reforms bills without consultations with the opposition, mainly BJP. Now, it seems that the Congress has been able to have a political understanding with the Samajwadi Party and the BSP for the running of the government at the centre since Trinamool Congress is not fully collaborating. This understanding means that on a sustained basis, the UPA-2 can carry on smoothly in both houses of Parliament for the next two years till the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. On Tuesday, the opposition amendment was defeated by 105 to 82 votes with Trinamool members abstaining. In Lok Sabha, the UPA is in majority and if there is any problem from Trinamool, the 21 seats of Samajwadi Party and 19 seats of BSP are more than enough to compensate the loss of TMC’s 19 members. Political sources however maintain that Trinamool at this stage will not desert UPA and might opt for abstaining on some crucial bills which may not really block the passage of the reforms bills if SP and BSP support is assured.
It is in this context, the finance ministry officials said that the Government was in a position to move the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill in the second half of the budget session and it can be passed with 49 per cent FDI cap as per the official bill provided the Finance Minister who has good relations with SP and BSP leaders, persuade them to support the bill. In that case, if TMC abstains or votes against, there will be no defeat of the Insurance Laws Bill. The Government can ignore the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Finance on the Insurance Bill for retaining the FDI cap at 26 per cent and go ahead with its own provisions. Already in his budget speech, Finance Minister mentioned that the Government will move the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill in the present session since the SCF has already submitted its report to Parliament. That way, the Finance Ministry officials feel that a very favourable situation has been created now for reforms and the Congress has to tactfully tackle both SP and BSP for facilitating the process during the current budget session.