Relief for UPA govt as DMK comes on board
Numbers pile up for govt as NDA allies waver
After regional ally DMK agreed to vote in favour of FDI in multi-brand retail, the UPA government on Tuesday appeared confident of a victory in case voting takes place in Parliament.
“We are confident of the numbers,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after a meeting of the ruling UPA’s co-ordination committee. Even as Singh made the remarks, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi lifted the spirit of the UPA managers as he stated in Chennai that his party would support the government in Parliament if there was voting following debate on the controversial issue. This, he said, was necessary to “stop a communal BJP from coming to power.”
So far, the Left parties and the BJP are the only ones which have clearly articulated their respective stand on voting, saying they would vote against the government. The NDA allies, especially the Janata Dal (United) and Shiromani Akali Dal, have not taken final decision on the issue. The JD(U) has said it would go by the consensus among the Opposition parties.
On the other hand, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the UPA from outside, and the Trinamool Congress have indicated that they would go by whatever decision the Lok Sabha Speaker takes. This, in other words, means that they are not averse to a debate without voting. If there is voting, it is certain that the SP and the BSP will not vote against the government – they may either support or abstain/walk out, in which case the majority mark in the House will get reduced.
The BJP and the Left want discussion under Rule 184 in which voting is required after debate while the governments is in favour of Rule 193 which does not entail voting.
The UPA had reached out to the DMK as the PM sent Union minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to talk to Karunanidhi on Sunday. The ruling coalition is also working on the SP and the BSP at different levels. The government is hoping that these two Uttar Pradesh parties will follow the DMK stand.
As per rough calculation, in case the SP (22 MPs) and the BSP (21) abstain, the majority mark will come down to around 220 in a House of 545 ensuring a comfortable win for the UPA.
The government, however, may not be out of the woods since it may still be a tricky affair in the Rajya Sabha where the government will have to do even more home work to eke out a win. With an effective strength of 244 members, the majority mark in the Upper House is 123, but if parties abstain, the half-way mark will come down. While the UPA and its allies have a strength of about 95 members, the government will have to ensure voting in favour of the government by BSP (15) and SP (9) to win. The government may also have to depend on the 12 nominated members to bail it out.
The government managers are likely to continue to their efforts to iron out differences on the voting issue by meeting Opposition Leaders in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, respectively on Wednesday.
Speaking to reporters, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said, “The UPA is fully united on any decision of the speaker and the government... all constituents are firmly behind the government.” Observing that the government was not averse to voting, he said, “larger numbers (parties at the UPA meeting) are in favour of discussion to be decided by the Speaker.”