The government today said it had the numbers in both Houses of Parliament to ensure the two sets of votes on retail — the motion on foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail and the vote on amendment of the Foreign Exchange Management Act (Fema) to operationalise the retail decision, if any — went in its favour. The debate is set to start in the Lok Sabha tomorrow.
However, this round of voting may not be the end of the story. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) is making back-up plans to leverage ‘every parliamentary rule’ to ensure liberalised retail is held up for as long as possible.
The key issue is the vote on Fema amendment. The government has amended Fema and tabled the amendment. Now, an MP who wants to press an amendment will table his amendment. According to CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury, the amendment in the notification can be pressed by any member within 30 days of it being placed on the table of the House. As the notification hasn’t even been tabled in the Rajya Sabha yet, a debate could carry on into the Budget, even monsoon session next year, since the winter session ends on December 21.
The government managers also conceded that the debate on this issue might drag on to the Budget session, or even the monsoon session next year.(HOW THE NUMBERS STACK UP)
UPA sources were clear the ruling coalition would win the motion on FDI in retail in the Lok Sabha, even if there was a voting.
In the Rajya Sabha, they said, the majority would be wafer thin. But, if the overall numbers come down — the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) today hinted it would create conditions favourable for the government — the government is likely to get between 109 and 120 votes. The strength of the House — 244 at present — would come down to 220 if 15 BSP and nine Samajwadi party MPs decide to abstain. In that case, the government would require just 111 votes to cross the halfway mark.
The government’s opening speaker could be Finance Minister P Chidambaram. Sushma Swaraj from the BJP is likely to be the first choice of the Opposition.
Meanwhile, most MPs and experts countered an earlier contention of Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath that different rules in the two Houses made it possible for the government to get the vote cleared by just one House. Nath himself told reporters he had been misinformed.
“Under what rule is Nath saying what he’s saying? There are the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha rules of procedures and then there’s Constitution. The parliamentary affairs minister must fortify what he’s saying, citing relevant rules,” Constitutional expert Subhash Kashyap said, adding: “I do not find any rule that says it is enough for Fema regulation amendments to get the clearance of just one House or only the Lok Sabha.”