House may see protest over FDI
Opposition parties seek voting on foreign funds in multi-brand retail
Parliament is set to witness yet another stormy session from Thursday, with the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left insisting on a voting on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance Government’s decision on allowing Foreign Direct Investment in the multi-brand retail sector.
In an attempt to reach out to the BJP, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited top leaders of the principal opposition party – L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley – for a dinner at his residence on Thursday.
The move came after the BJP and the Left parties indicated during an all-party meet convened by the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Wednesday that they would allow the House to run only if the government agreed to hold a debate on the FDI in multi-brand retail under a rule that would entail voting.
Though the government is confident that it had the support of enough MPs in the lower House of Parliament to defeat the no-confidence motion, the Trinamool Congress is planning to move, it is reluctant to have the debate on the FDI under Rule 184 of the Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Lok Sabha.
While the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party are likely to help the government survive a trial of strength on a no confidence motion, they may abstain in case of a voting under Rule 184, thus putting the UPA in trouble.
“We want the House to run, we wish to cooperate in running the House, there are several issues waiting to be discussed. But our pre-condition is that the issue on which an assurance was given to the House be taken up first under the Rule 184,” said BJP heavyweight and of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj. She was referring to the assurance given to Parliament by the then Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee in the winter session last year that a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail would be kept in abeyance till all stakeholders were consulted.
“That assurance was completely and openly violated by the government. It is important for political parties to express their view on FDI in retail in Parliament and this can be done only through voting,” Swaraj told journalists after the all-party meeting convened by the Speaker.
Gurudas Dasgupta of the CPI too said that as the government did not appear in the mood to have a discussion on the issue of FDI in retail under Rule 184, Parliament might not function for at least the first few days of the session.
“There was no assurance in that sense of the word. There is a committee of assurances... We will go into the records on what Pranab Mukherjee had said,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, adding that he would meet leaders of political parties over the next few days and try for a convergence of views to ensure that the winter session did not suffer frequent disruptions like the last three sessions of Parliament.
“If they (the Opposition) want to defeat the government, the straight forward action is to go for no-confidence motion. We welcome if anybody wants to move a no-confidence motion,” Congress spokesman and Lok Sabha MP P C Chacko said.
Though the TMC, which has 19 MPs in the LS, is set to move a no-confidence motion against the government on the issue of FDI, its plea for support from the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Left parties did not elicit positive response.
Trinamool Congress, a former ally of UPA, will move a no-confidence motion against the government on Thursday. Party sources said the motion would be tabled just before the sitting on the first day of the session of the House. Party Chief Mamata Banerjee has directed all the party MPs, except Kabir Suman who is considered a rebel, to be present in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, sources said.
Majority of the Opposition are of the view that a debate under Rule 184 entailing voting would put the UPA in more trouble than a trial of strength caused by a no-confidence motion. The SP and the BSP, which has 22 and 21 MPs respectively, would not want the government to fall and help it defeat a no-confidence motion, but may abstain in case of a voting following a debate on the FDI in retail under Rule 184.
The Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam, the Congress’ partner in the UPA, might also abstain, because, like the SP and the BSP, it also joined the clamour opposing the Government’s decision on FDI in multi-brand retail.
The DMK has 18 MPs in the LS. “In a democratic set-up, the Cabinet is competent to take certain executive decisions. The Opposition should not insist on putting them to vote...If still they feel that the government has done something wrong and should be punished, they can move a no-confidence motion,” said Chacko.