New Delhi :  The Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill that seeks 49 percent Foreign Direct Investment in the insurance sector is not only the first major economic reform push by the Modi government, but it has also become the test of opposition unity in the Rajya Sabha.

As both sides match their wits, the Congress, facing accusations of a U-turn and double standards, is not willing to give up the demand that the Bill be referred to the select committee, as it would mean breaking ranks with the other parties that have taken this stand.

The combined strength of 133 of those favouring that the Bill be sent to the select committee in the Rajya Sabha is also a challenge for the floor management skills of the NDA trouble shooters, who need to forge a consensus for the Bill to be passed in the budget session. An all party meeting scheduled for Wednesday would decide the winner of this game of nerves.

In case, the NDA wins over the two Uttar Pradesh players – the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, as well as the AIADMK, the Bill could pass the Rajya Sabha hump.

The much talked of joint session of both the Houses is not a viable option at this stage considering that the Bill has not been passed in any House. ‘‘This option becomes available only when the Bill has been passed by a House, and rejected by another,” said a senior Congress leader.

Apart from giving a booster dose to the economy, the passage of the Bill, originally mooted by the UPA government, would also be seen as an example of the Modi government’s ability to shake off the policy paralysis that haunted its predecessor.

The use of the select committee to delay the passage of the Bill is seen as a parliamentary ruse by the Congress to deny this propaganda bit to the BJP. ‘‘They waited for six years, now what is the rush. Why can’t they wait for a weeks,” said party spokesperson Anand Sharma

He also mocked at Union finance minister Arun Jaitley for asking the Congress to give its amendments in writings. “This is not a party affair,” he said.

But having aligned with other parties to mount the opposition to the Bill, the Congress cannot afford to let down parties like the Left and the TMC in the interest of larger opposition bonding in the Rajya Sabha.  “The parties are committed on this issue,” said Sharma

The BJP could still win over some parties in this formation and the Bill may go through the Rajya Sabha, but at this stage it appears unlikely, and it may miss the Budget session deadline.

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