There is a very slim chance that normalcy would return to the parliament during the course of this week. As an all-party meeting convened by prime minister Manmohan Singh to find a way out of the logjam on the controversial issue of FDI in multi-brand retail failed to reach a consenus, it was abundantly clear that any breakthrough would now be reached only next week.
The timeframe was set by a chain of events listed during the next few days. The UPA allies are scheduled to meet on Tuesday, and this would resolve their internal contradictions, especially with reference to the DMK that has sought this meeting. Then parliament will remain closed on Wednesday on account of Guru Nanak Jayanti. The business advisory committee is likely to meet on Thursday or Friday to finalise the schedule for discussing, and thus it can be taken up earliest on next Monday.
Even though at the end of the two-hour all-party meeting at Parliament House, minister for parliamentary affairs Kamal Nath said there were three different strands of opinions expressed by parties, it is clear that the main opposition BJP would not compromise on its demand for a vote on the issue and thus the logjam would continue.
Kamalnath said that some of the opposition parties insisted on a discussion under Rule 184 which entailed voting, and that many parties merely wanted a discussion, and were not particular about voting or no voting after it and others preferred that voting or non-voting decision be left to the presiding officers. He said he would now inform the presiding officers – the Speaker in the Lok Sabha and the chairman of Rajya Sabha – about the meeting.
For the BJP, the demand for a vote is in consonance with its stand that the government has reneged on its promise to keep the decision on hold as long as a consensus is not arrived. As it has gone ahead with the decision unilaterally, the government should seek the parliament’s approval. Said a senior BJP leader of parliament, “Vote is the essence of democracy. Congress wants to change that. It happens all the time in the US legislature.”
According to sources, finance minister P Chidambaram, who was the third speaker after Kamal Nath and home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, categorically rejected that the discussion should go with the voting proposition. Leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj stated her party’s position on the need for vote.
The Trinamool Congress, which had moved the no-trust motion and failed to get the necessary support from the other opposition parties, taunted the opposition for not supporting the TMC’s no-trust motion and for going to the government with a ‘begging bowl’ seeking discussion. The TMC even suggested to the BJP and others that the no-trust motion can be brought again.
The SP and the BSP indicated that they are not particular about the rule under the discussion is take place. The BSP is informally insisting that the government should bring the reservations in promotion in bill, and SP chief Mulayam Singh said he is against the bill and his party will stall the proceedings in parliament if the bill is brought. Rastriya Janata Dal’s Lalu Yadav said the issue should be decided by the presiding officers.
The two communist parties – the CPI and the CPI-M – have taken a benign position. They have told the government that it should face the vote, and a CPI leader sympathised with the BJP demand for the vote. At the end of the meeting, Kamal Nath requested the BJP and NDA to reconsider its position, and Sushma Swaraj told the minister that the government should reconsider its stand.