Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today expressed the confidence that Insurance Amendment Bill, which seeks to raise the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from 26 per cent to 49 per cent, will be passed in the forthcoming Winter Session of Parliament.
“I hope to get a positive report from the select committee…Insurance bill may be passed (in the coming session of Parliament),” he said at a book release function in which he was pitted against former Finance Minister P Chidambaram at a book release function.
The debate, during launch of the book ‘2014: The election that changed India’ written by well known television personality Rajdeep Sardesai, was moderated by senior journalist Karan Thapar.
“Like all good things, this (Insurance Amendment Bill) will come to an end. I am hoping for a positive select Committee report. And I do hope to pass it this month,” Jaitley said.
The Winter Session of Parliament, during which the insurance bill is likely to be taken up for discussion and passage, will begin on November 24.
On why the Congress party was opposing its own insurance bill, Chidambaram said, “Perhaps the Congress party is doing tit for tat. It might not be the politically correct thing to do, but if they hung it up to dry for one year, may be some in the Congress party thought let them hang out to dry for four months.”
Recalling his meetings with BJP leader Sushma Swaraj and other leaders in December 2013, Chidambaram said, “I implored them…they said no. Finally they said BJP has no appetite to pass any Bills any more.”
The Former Finance Minister said that he would cheer from outside if the Bill was passed in the Winter Session.
The insurance bill is currently with the Select Committee of Parliament which is expected to give its report in third week of November.
Chidambaram said he felt let down when Jaitley did not repeal the retrospective tax amendment of 2012 despite the clear majority in Parliament. The Former Finance Minister said he could not do because of the lack of it.
Jaitley replied saying that he had given clear assurance that there would be no retrospective amendment in future and no notices would be issued.
He said the government could not do it because there was a pending dispute, an apparent reference to arbitration with Vodafone, and felt any amendment would be misconstrued by people as sacrificing government interest.
Referring to the Congress defeat in elections, Chidambaram said after ten years in power anti-incumbency stares in one’s face and admitted that some mistakes were made.
But, he added, the economy was a major factor and if the government had been able to turn it around, then the results could have been different. “But still BJP would have been number one.”
The CAG report on 2G and other issues, Chidambaram said, “clearly …hurt the Congress party. I think 2G could have been handled differently in the sense that the Prime Minister could have put his foot down and said I am sorry, I will not let you go forward with the first come first serve (FCFS) route.
“Or after licences had been granted and issue was brought up, he could have said cancel licences without waiting for the judgement. It hurt us. My personal view was once this came out as a scandal of bandwidth allotment, the Government should have cancelled all the licences without waiting for the Supreme Court (judgement).”
On why the then government did not cancel the licences, Chidambaram said the decision was taken to wait for the court verdict. “The decision was taken to wait for the Court verdict. These are the matters which do not come to the Cabinet. These are ideas which are discussed informally.
“I think the idea as suggested and considered.I always believed it was a pretty simple decision rather than suffer any judgement and then try to work out consequent.”