Rahul Gandhi refutes double standards on insurance bill

Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi Tuesday said the Congress party does not have "double standards" on the insurance bill.

New Delhi: Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi Tuesday said the Congress party does not have "double standards" on the insurance bill.

"I think, Congress does not have double standards on the insurance bill," Rahul Gandhi told reporters in parliament complex.

He also denied any u-turn on the proposed legislation.

The insurance bill, which will raise the ceiling on foreign direct investment (FDI) in insurance sector to 49 percent from the current 26 percent, has to be passed by the Rajya Sabha.
Main opposition Congress has, however, not yet made its stand clear on the bill, and a meeting called by the government Monday remained inconclusive. The government does not enjoy a majority in the Rajya Sabha, unlike in the lower house, and has only 59 members in the 243-member upper house.

Congress leader Anand Sharma, meanwhile, said his party is not being obstructionist on the insurance bill, and added that a select committee of parliament should first discuss the measure.

"All the opposition parties were together yesterday (Monday) when the government called for an informal meeting. We (Congress party} are not being obstructionist and opposing (the bill) for the sake of it," Sharma, former commerce minister said.

"In a democracy the government must listen to opposition, the combined opposition. Almost all opposition parties have raised some issue. The best way for the government is to discuss it. And the forum for discussion should be a committee of the house," he added.

Sharma pointed out that it was the Congress that introduced the bill in 2008, and charged the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with opposing it for six years.
"For six years they (BJP) were serving public interest and now we are doing disservice by asking for more clarity on some substantive issues of the bill. Government should not mislead the public," he said.

The Congress is backing the Trinamool Congress and Left parties` proposal to send the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill to a select committee, as it would scuttle any government move to get the legislation passed by convening a joint session of the two houses of parliament.

The proposed amendment will pave the way for infusion of the much-needed additional equity to the tune of Rs 25,000 crore into the insurance sector.

While up to 26 percent foreign investment will be allowed automatically, any FDI beyond that will require approval through the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). Control of the insurance venture will have to be vested in Indian hands, according to the new bill.