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FDI in retail: UPA maintains brave face on vote test in Parliament

SP & BSP keep it on tenterhooks

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Both houses of resumed normal functioning today, after the government agreed to a vote on the FDI in retail issue. Yesterday the Lok Sabha had got down to business only after the Speaker declared that a discussion under rule 184 would be taken up. Today, the Rajya Sabha Chairman’s decision to allow for voting on FDI issue, was welcomed by the benches. While the government bolstered by its numbers in the lower house is slated to sail through when the FDI issue is taken up on December 4 and 5th, the scenario looks more challenging in the Upper house, where the Congress led does not have the requisite MPs. However Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath and senior Congress leaders insist that the UPA will manage the numbers and not fail the floor test.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has already been making attempts to reach out to Samajawadi party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav. Congress insiders say the UPA which was quite confident of both and support to steer it through this test, was taken aback by SP senior leader Ramgopal Yadav’s statement. Yadav has said, “If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it… we will not let it pass." But senior Congress leaders insist that government is not in danger of losing the vote. “Nobody wants an election now”, said a senior Congress leader. SP and BSP you never know, might rethink their positions and come out in support of the government in the Rajya Sabha.  Rajya Sabha will have discussion entailing voting on FDI in retail issue on December 6 and 7, a day after the Lok Sabha votes on the issue. 

Dispelling talk of the government being unsure of its numbers in the Rajya Sabha, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said, "I am confident of both Houses". He also urged parties that render external support ie the SP and BSP to "look at the politics" of the FDI issue in Parliament. "I cannot comment on what other parties are doing. But I will be urging parties to look at the politics of it and to vote with the government; because it is clearly a political move, nothing to do with FDI in retail. That is a matter to states to decide to avail of this," the Minister said when asked about the Samajwadi Party's stand on the issue. 

Congress floor managers have been working overtime to ensure the presence of MPs like Sachin Tendulkar and actress Rekha on the crucial day in the upper house. “As of now it is a very tight call as far as the number s go,” said a Congress leader. “But we are working on it and hope to make SP and BSP see reason. After all nobody wants elections now.”

Although the UPA government is in no danger of falling, as the matter that is being put to vote is an executive decision and not a financial bill, failing the vote test will amount to a loss of face for the government, something that a beleaguered government can ill afford at this juncture.

Meanwhile, the other Uttar Pradesh based party the BSP on which the UPA is banking heavily today merely said, "When the discussion will take place we will make our stand known." BSP supreme Mayawati speaking to reporters in Parliament today said, “"The House was not running smoothly earlier. It is functioning today and it is Private Member's Bill today. Whenever it will be taken up in the House, we will make our party's stand clear on the floor of the House.” 

 

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