After spending four working days of parliament to stonewall the opposition’s demand for a discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail under voting clause, the Congress relented from its principled stand to help break the logjam. Minutes after parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath and leader of the opposition Sushma Swaraj met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar in her chamber, the decision to have the debate under rule 184 that permits voting was announced in the House.
Later, it was finalized that the debate would take place on Tuesday (December 4), and could extend up to the next day.
After the Speaker announced the decision, Swaraj said the opposition would now allow the house to function, and the business of the day was taken up. However, the Rajya Sabha did not function for the day, as the decision to allow the debate under a voting rule was taken by chairman Hamid Ansari only after the house had been adjourned for the day. But there is no certainty about the date of the debate.
With the stage set for voting on the issue, the contradictions between the parties opposed to the UPA, and the ones supporting it are expected to come into play. For instance, the Trinamool Congress has been opposed to the FDI, but has made it clear that it is not interested in siding with the BJP and the Left.
On the UPA side, both the BSP, and the SP have also opposed FDI, but they are not inclined to vote against the government. While SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav has said he would take the call on voting at the right moment,the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha Ram Gopal Yadav asserted that they would vote against the government.
Also, there is a sideshow between the SP and the BSP over a bill to provide for quota for SCs/STs in promotions in government jobs. The two parties find themselves on opposite side of the issue.
For the Congress floor managers, this rift is causing problems in the Rajya Sabha, where the UPA lacks majority. There is an added element of uncertainty, as the government side cannot presume that all the nominated members would bail it out.
It is in this scenario, that the BJP hopes to embarrass the government in Parliament. “The vote will show as to which of the parties are actually opposed to FDI,” said BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad. He also added that if the government loses vote in Parliament, then the decision would have to be stalled.