The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is to overlook the reservations of some of its allies on economic reforms-related legislation and press ahead in Parliament if it gets an assurance that sections of the opposition will vote with it.
So hinted Kapil Sibal, human resource development minister, at an interaction with reporters on Monday on how he thought the government would implement the assurance given by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee in the US to investors that three important legislations — on pensions and the secto regulator, amending the insurance laws and the banking laws — would be passed, if not in the current Budget session, then in the monsoon session.
"The Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, Arun Jaitley, has indicated publicly that the Bharatiya Janata Party would support the Insurance Bill," Sibal said.
When reminded that it was not the BJP, but members of the UPA's own alliance, such as the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, that was opposed, he said, "We will reach out to everyone."
Other UPA ministers charged with parliamentary management said there had been some sort of 'understanding' between Banerjee and Mukherjee. Sibal's statement and the government's demeanour suggested it had decided to stare back at those using their veto power to stymie reforms in a government that has a precarious majority. Banerjee's supporters said she was opposed to the pensions Bill, as it "places the hard-earned money of the common man at the disposal of private insurance agencies".
Last month, BJP leader Yashwant Sinha had also indicated the BJP would help the government in getting the bills passed. "The finance minister (Pranab Mukherjee) has talked to our party and we said most of these (bills) have been pending since the BJP was in power. So, we will lend support to these bills, but you (government) need to put your house in order," he had said at a meeting organised by Ficci, the business chamber.
Sinha, a former finance minister and chairman of Parliament's standing committee on finance, said, "As far as these bills and any other future bills are concerned, the BJP will be ready to extend support to the government with some minor adjustments here and there... There will be no act on our part to stop the legislations, provided we work in a truly bipartisan spirit."
The PFRDA (pensions) Bill, besides giving statutory backing to the sector regulator, will steer long-gestation funding for infrastructure sectors. More, it is to facilitate alternative sources of low-cost retirement savings, and ensure a market-linked safety net for workers in both organised and unorganised sectors. The banking amendment legislation, aiming to lift the 10 per cent cap on voting rights of investors, and raising the foreign direct investment limit from 26 per cent to 49 per cent in the insurance Bill, are the other two key reforms that need legislative backing. However the standing committee has suggested 90-odd amendments in the insurance Bill.
Minister for parliamentary affairs P K Bansal said Parliament was expected to take up the finance bill for approval on May 7 or 8. He said the three reform Bills would be introduced when the finance ministry wanted to list these.The guillotine on discussion on demands for grants in the Lok Sabha is being planned to be applied on May 3.
The Lok Sabha will have discussions on the grants of the ministries of health, urban development, commerce and industry, and home. The Rajya Sabha will have debates on the working of the ministries of civil aviation, coal, defence, and labour and employment.
The BJP has demanded a discussion on defence, where it intends to raise several contentious issues of the recent past related to the ministry. The opposition party wants Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to give a statement on defence preparedness.