Govt wins FDI vote in LS
SP, BSP abstain from voting; cross-voting not ruled out
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Wednesday managed to secure the Lok Sabha’s endorsement for its decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail trade, as its two key outside supporters staged a walkout from the House ahead of a voting on the issue.
The two friendly parties, which helped the government win the vote, were the 22-member-strong Samajwadi Party (SP) and the 21-member Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP). Both parties had opposed the FDI move.
The government won the vote, though it also became obvious from the two-day-long debate on an Opposition-sponsored motion against the opening up of the retail sector for FDI that a majority of members in the 545-member House were critical of the move.
The motion, moved by Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj against the 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, was defeated with 258 members voting against the motion, while 229 supported it. A total of 487 MPs took part in the voting and 58 MPs abstained.
Now, a scheduled two-day debate on the issue in the Rajya Sabha will begin on Thursday. The government does not enjoy a majority in the House.
Sources also did not rule out the possibility of some cross-voting. Apart from the SP and BSP members, those who were not present for the voting were: H D Kumaraswamy and Cheluvarayaswamy (both JD-S), Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD), Babulal Marandi(JVM), Dilip Singh Judeo and Mansukhbhai (both BJP), Asaduddin Owaisi(MIM), Capt JNP Nishad(JD-U), and Kabir Suman (Trinamool). But JD(S) chief and former prime minister H D Deve Gowda voted for the motion.
All other BJP members from Karnataka, barring J Shantha from Bellary, voted as per the party whip, despite speculation that supporters of former chief minister B S Yeddyurappa would vote against the motion. The issue figured in the morning meeting of the senior BJP leaders. Shantha has been barred by the Supreme Court from taking part in House voting.
Along with the vote on FDI, the House also voted against another motion that questioned the recently framed rules of the Foreign Exchange Management Act. The motion, moved by Sougata Roy of the Trinamool Congress, secured 227 votes, while 258 voted against it.
Speaking after the government’s victory in the Lok Sabha, an elated UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi hoped that the coalition would win in Upper House endorsement, too. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described the win as Parliament’s approval for FDI.
However, Swaraj told reporters soon after the defeat of her motion that the majority in the House was against FDI in retail. She said this was reflected in speeches of leaders of different political parties.
“Going by speeches in the debate on FDI, leaders of various parties which extended support in favour of the motion and against bringing FDI in multi-brand retail had 282 votes and those against it had 224 votes. The government won technically but lost morally,” she said.
She criticised the SP and BSP action and said people of the country knew that it was a sham. “If they had voted on the lines they spoke, the government would have been defeated. They have indirectly supported FDI,” she added.
But SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav defended his party’s abstention.
"We walked out because the government has neglected the interests of farmers and small traders. We are against FDI," he said.
When pointed out that he could have well voted against FDI in the House if he was against the proposal, Mulayam remarked: “It was our party’s decision to abstain. We did not want to be seen voting along with communal parties.”
Total members in Lok Sabha-544 (Excluding Speaker)
* Voted on the motion against FDI 487
* Voted in favour of FDI 258
* Voted against FDI 229
favour of FDI
* RJD and others
* JD (U)
* Shiv Sena
* Left Parties
* Deve Gowda of JD(S)
* SP n BSP (both parties staged walk out before voting began) n Babulal Marandi (JVM)
* H D Kumaraswamy and Cheluvaraya Swamy (both JD-S) n Asaduddin Owaisi (MIM)
* Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (RJD) n Dilip Singh Judeo and Mansukhbhai (both BJP)
* Jaganmohan Reddy (YSR Congress) n Kabir Suman (Trinamool) etc.
* Capt JNP Nishad (JD-U) n J Shantha, BJP MP from Karnataka, is barred by Supreme Court from voting