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Insurance bill introduced in Rajya Sabha amidst scuffle

December 22, 2008 13:52 IST

The government today introduced the draft legislation of the insurance bill in the Rajya Sabha amid strong attempts by the Left to block it. CPI (M) members even rushed menacingly towards Minister of State for Finance P K Bansal to snatch the paper from him.

As Bansal rose to introduce the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, CPI (M) member T K Rangarajan dashed towards him to snatch the copy of the bill. An agitated-looking external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee was seen pushing the CPI (M) member and protecting his ministerial colleague from the opposition onslaught.

Another minister Meira Kumar rushed to the front bench to shield Bansal, who managed to introduce the bill aimed at increasing the FDI limit in the insurance sector.

The melee resulted in Deputy Chairman K Rahman Khan adjourning the House till 1400 hours.

The CPI (M) members, helped by new-found friends AIADMK and TDP, appeared determined to thwart the introduction of the bill by gathering in the well even before the House met at noon after an adjournment during the Question Hour on the A R Antulay issue.

The UPA government kept the insurance reforms in abeyance till the Left parties withdrew support in July this year. The bill proposes to raise foreign equity in Indian insurance companies from 26 per cent to 49 per cent. It also seeks to allow nationalised general insurance firms to raise money from the market.

The Left parties' strong objection to the bill became clear right from the beginning of the Question Hour, when the CPI (M) members led by Brinda Karat rushed into the well and CPI members kept standing on their seats. The CPI (M) members shouted slogans against the Bill, leading to noisy scenes.

Khan pleaded with them to go back to their seats and allow the laying of papers listed against the names of the ministers. The Left members, however, were unrelenting; at one stage, A Vijayraghavan (CPI-M) tore the agenda paper in front of the podium.

As the Chair asked Bansal to introduce the bill, the protest from the Left members became louder and Rangarajan rushed towards Bansal. The external affairs minister pushed Rangarajan away while Meira Kumar provided a shield to allow Bansal to introduce the bill. Other senior ministers too came to Bansal's rescue.

The main opposition party, the BJP, is not opposed to reforms in the insurance sector and stayed away from the Left parties' protests.
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