The ruling United Progressive Alliance at the Centre on Tuesday seemed to be confident of winning Wednesday’s voting in the Lok Sabha on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) rules to operationalise the proposal.
However, which way the Rajya Sabha will vote on the two controversial issues continued to worry the government.
As the Lok Sabha kicked off the much-awaited debate, the government’s outside supporters Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) sent enough signals that they would bail out the government.
According to Congress insiders, the two parties are likely to abstain from voting. But the possibility of the BSP voting in favour of the government could not be ruled out. However, neither SP supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav nor BSP’s Dara Singh Chauhan, who participated in the debate, spelt out their parties’ decisions on the issue.
Chauhan, like his leader Mayawati, said his party would disclose what stand it would take at the time of voting on Wednesday. “We are seriously thinking about whether to stand with the communal forces or not,” he said referring to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Mulayam said, “You (government) will not benefit from this (FDI in retail) even in elections.”
The Trinamool Congress, which tried to move a no-confidence motion against the government last week, indicated that it would vote against the government.
Amid the government bid to ramp up numbers, Congress MPs from Telangana proved to be difficult to handle as they boycotted a meeting called by Home Minister Sushil Shinde and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath.
They were protesting against the delay in declaring a separate state of Telangana. Eight of the MPs boycotted the meeting while three ministers belonging to the region, including Union minister S Jaipal Reddy, attended the meeting. Congress President Sonia Gandhi is likely to assuage the feelings of the Telangana MPs.
The BJP and its friendly parties and the Left parties in the Opposition and neutral parties like the Biju Janata Dal, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Telugu Desam Party may oppose the FDI.
However, it is the Upper House that continued to keep the Centre worried. With the Congress-led Centre in a minority, the treasury benches require not just the SP and BSP but also the nominated members and independents to vote in favour of the FDI. The Lok Sabha takes up the two issues for voting on Wednesday evening. A two-day debate in the Rajya Sabha will begin on Thursday with voting scheduled for Friday.
The demand made by the BJP and the Left for separate debates on FDI and Fema rules was rejected by Speaker Meira Kumar. As the government favoured taking up both issues together, Yashwant Sinha (BJP), Basudeb Acharia (CPM) and Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) insisted on separate debates.
Sinha’s said the debate and voting on FDI in retail under Rule 184 should not be clubbed with the one regarding modifications to Fema notifications issued by the RBI in October. According to him, members have the right to move amendments to Fema modifications up to 30 working days from the day it is tabled. That right should not be taken away, he said.