Debate on FDI likely from Dec 4

Govt prepares the ground by speaking to BJP

Parliament is likely to take up discussion on the controversial foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail from Tuesday next.

The government Wednesday held discussions with Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, on the issue. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath conveyed to the two BJP leaders that the government was not averse to a debate entailing voting.

Both sides stuck to their respective positions on FDI issue, while the BJP leaders insisted that the debate should be under Rule 184 which requires voting. Nath informed them that the government would leave it to the presiding officers of the two Houses to decide the mode of debate. He later told reporters, “Presiding officers may take any decision in the interest of running Parliament.”

The UPA government got a breather on Tuesday after DMK veteran M Karunanidhi announced his party, an ally of UPA, would support the government “to keep the BJP out of power.” It is also likely that the friendly UPA partners such as SP and BSP will not vote against the government despite their opposition to FDI. The Left parties, BJP, BJD, AIADMK and TDP are some of the parties which have demanded voting after discussion.

Nath, who also met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, made light of BJP criticism that the government wasted four days of the ongoing winter session of Parliament to end the stalemate as it did not have the numbers. "From day one I have said we have the numbers," he shot back.

Swaraj told reporters that the BJP insisted on a discussion under a rule that entails voting as the government overlooked Parliament by going back on its commitment to consult all stakeholders before taking a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail.Asked how an executive decision such as on FDI could be debated and probably put to vote in Parliament, Nath said: "There are many precedents. A House behaving like this was also not there. Rules are very clear. We are not worried. Government is confident of the steps... of our policies."

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