NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India's parliament returned to business on Monday after the opposition dropped its demand for the sacking of a government minister for an alleged hate speech, raising hopes that lawmakers will move forward with reform legislation.
The upper house of parliament - where the opposition commands a majority - has been paralysed for nearly a week after junior food processing minister Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti made derogatory remarks about non-Hindus at a campaign rally.
The breakthrough came at an all-party meeting where representatives agreed to be civil in public speeches and uphold the secular constitution of the country. "We want parliament to function peacefully," said parliament affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration is hoping to win support in the upper house for a bill to lift foreign ownership caps in insurance joint ventures from 26 percent to 49 percent in the current session of parliament that ends this month.
But Jyoti's comments that voters must "decide whether you want a government of those born of (Hindu god) Ram, or those born illegitimately", reinforced fears that the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party was stoking communal divisions to build political support.
India has a dark history of religious violence, especially between the Hindu majority and Muslims, who account for more than 150 million people.