Even while hoping for discussion on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail without voting, the government was still ready with the numbers. This was the message the floor managers of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was sending to Parliament, as another day of the winter session passed by without any business, with the Opposition sticking to its guns that there must be a vote.
One by one, all the constituents of the UPA fell in line. Fearing political isolation, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) had softened its stand yesterday, and agreed to support the UPA. Today, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) said it would vote for FDI in retail, albeit “with bitterness”, lest “communal forces” would take advantage of the situation.
For the record, the government maintained it was not for or against a vote and said the presiding officers had to decide. “The UPA is fully united on any decision of the Speaker and the government. All constituents are firmly behind the government,” said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, after a meeting of the UPA constituents. Referring to yesterday’s all-party meeting, he said most leaders were in favour of the manner of discussion to be decided by the Speaker.
The Prime Minister said in the lobbies that the UPA had the numbers even if the matter came down to a vote. A back-of-the-envelope calculation showed this was the case.
In the Lok Sabha, along with the TMC, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP), all of whom have pledged support to the government, the UPA has upwards of 315 votes in a house of 545. In the Rajya Sabha, with a total strength of 244, the UPA has around 130 when it actually needs only 122.
What is more interesting is, if there is a vote and the main Opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), sticks to its promise and lets the House function after the vote, a huge stack of legislative actions could be cleared in the remaining period of the winter session.
This includes major economic legislation such as the Companies Bill, the Banking Laws Amendment Bill, the PFRDA bill, the Insurance Laws (amendment) Bill, the Forward Contracts Regulation Bill, the National Highways Authority of India Amendment Bill.