NEW DELHI: As the Opposition continued to press for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s response to the concerns over conversions and protested suspension of a Congress member for the day, proceedings in the Rajya Sabha were washed out for the third consecutive day on Wednesday.
However, indications are that the much-awaited Insurance Amendment Bill which seeks to raise the bar of foreign investment to the sector from 26 to 49 per cent, may be presented in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley even said that he had his speech ready and would at least try read out a few lines and table the rest, in case the Opposition creates din yet again. The Opposition demand that the Prime Minister be present in the Upper House may be fulfilled on Thursday, as it is his question day.
On Wednesday, the treasury bench and the Opposition seemed to be on a warpath. Deputy Leader of the Congress in the Upper House said: “It does not make a difference for us whether they bring the Insurance Bill tomorrow or later. It was our Bill which the BJP, then in the Opposition, stalled for six years. Only thing, we know is that we cannot pass such a Bill when the House is not in order.”
As sparring between the two sides continued inside and outside, the RS was certainly not in order, third day in a row. The only business that could be transacted amid din was introduction of the Anti-Hijacking Amendment Bill 2014 and withdrawal of a similar Bill. The Insurance Bill, the key legislation of this session, remained in a limbo.
The Opposition unitedly voiced concern over reports of conversion and wanted none less than the Prime Minister himself to assure the House and the country that such things would not be allowed. However, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh was quite categorical that the PM would not speak. “Why should he,” he asked.
His colleague and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said by way of an explanation, “Our Prime Minister is a popular leader, he has some stature, they cannot expect him to speak at every drop of the hat and he cannot be questioned like that for no reason.”
Well, that seemed to be the point of difference. Opposition leaders like Sharma said, “We’re expecting a speech from the PM, but he has to be present in the House during the debate (on conversion) intervene, take our questions-that is how parliamentary democracy functions.”
Earlier in the day, amid slogan-shouting, members from the Congress, Trinamool and Left questioned why the government was not agreeing and asserted that the House will not be allowed to function till the demand is met.