The BJP’s bind
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Parliament will mull FDI in pension and insurance, and the BJP must decide its economic philosophy
The UPA's second round of better-late-than-never economic reforms, including FDI in pension and insurance, will now be tested in Parliament. This will be a fraught operation for the government, given that even those the Congress considers teammates, like the DMK and the SP, have signalled distance, on FDI in retail, for instance — and others like the Left parties and the TMC, are consistently and bitterly opposed to the very idea of inviting foreign capital in these sectors. Ironically, the only like-minded party on these matters is the principal opposition party, which now seems frozen in its pose of refusal and negativity.
The BJP, the party that first floated these ideas when it was in power, has not disowned them as emphatically as it did FDI in retail. Party president Nitin Gadkari said it is a matter of what the fine print says, others in the party have brought up the Congress's past opposition to FDI in insurance during the NDA years, and alleged this was a matter of "foreign pressure" and the UPA's attempt to change the subject from corruption. Clearly, the BJP is in a bind. Should it continue thwarting every UPA initiative, good or bad? Or should it hew to some sense of itself as a force of reform? It may now quibble over the divergences with the standing committee on finance headed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, which had recommended a limit of 26 per cent for FDI in insurance. The government's bill has taken that limit to 49 per cent. The point is, the pension and insurance bills are largely structured along the lines recommended by the standing committee, and the BJP's broad agreement with this legislation is a matter of record.
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