FDI row, BSP derail parliament
Parliament's winter session began on a stormy note Thursday with the row over FDI in trade and reservation for Dalits as well as tribals in promotions crippling the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
In the melee, the Trinamool Congress came out bruised after its no-confidence motion against the government was rejected in the Lok Sabha due to lack of adequate support from opposition MPs. Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Banerjee promptly hit out at the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Left for not backing her motion over foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail trade.
Minutes before the session began, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government was willing to discuss all issues in parliament, and sought the cooperation of political parties to let the house function smoothly.
"We are ready to discuss all issues on the floor of both houses," said Manmohan Singh. His appeal fell on deaf ears. Both the BJP and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) urged Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to allow voting on their notices opposing foreign equity in multi-brand retail.
She said the notices were under consideration. In the meantime, BJP's Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha, accused the government of violating its pledge to consult the parties before allowing FDI in retail.
The government denied this. "We have not violated (the assurance)," Commerce Minister Anand Sharma told IANS. The BJP had given a breach of privilege notice against him in the Rajya Sabha over his earlier assurance on the FDI issue.
When the Trinamool introduced its no-confidence motion in the lower house, only four Biju Janata Dal members stood by the party which had quit the UPA in September over economic reforms. Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, which supports the UPA, also opposed FDI in retail but said it was for the Lok Sabha speaker to decide the rule under which a debate on it could be held.
Government sources indicated it may concede a debate but without voting provision. Since this is not a financial matter, there is no danger to the government even if it loses a vote on the FDI in retail, said the sources.
The repeated disruptions in the Lok Sabha led to four adjournments before the first day's session was called off at 2 p.m. The Rajya Sabha too saw heated exchanges -- but on one extra issue.
Earlier, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members rushed towards the presiding officer's podium. While the SP demanded a rollback of LPG price hike, the BSP was critical of the law and order situation in Uttar Pradesh.
BSP supremo Mayawati said her party disrupted the Rajya Sabha over the government's failure to bring a legislation to ensure promotions for both Dalits and tribals in government jobs. With opposition and BSP members repeatedly disrupting the upper house, it was adjourned for the day.
The winter session ends Dec 20. With a shorter time-frame of 16 working days and a heavy agenda of 35 bills -- 25 listed for consideration and passing and 10 for introduction -- the government is desperate to pass major bills, especially economic ones.
Outside parliament, BJP's Arun Jaitley and CPI-M's Sitaram Yechury came together at a meeting convened by a traders' body to denounce FDI in retail trade. Jaitley said the government decision would lead to cheap Chinese goods flooding giant retail stores in the country while India would only produce sales boys and sales girls.