The first day of Parliament’s winter session followed the well-rehearsed script of periodic adjournments with no business being transacted and saw the Trinamool Congress’ move for a no-confidence motion flop.
The tussle between the ruling Congress and the opposition BJP on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail ultimately boiled down to the rule under which the matter should be debated.
The BJP wanted the debate to take place under rule 184 of the Lok Sabha that entails voting. But the Congress wanted the debate to be held under rule 193.
“The decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail does not require parliamentary approval. It is an executive decision, and there is no tradition of debating such issues under rule 184,” Union parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said.
“So it does not make any sense to have a debate under a rule that entails voting. But we are prepared to discuss anything,” he said.
The BJP pointed out when Pranab Mukherjee was finance minister he promised that a decision on FDI would be taken only after taking Parliament into confidence. “So, why is the government now shying away from a debate? If it is so confident of its numbers it should not run away from a vote in the house,” BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said.
The BJP’s strategy is guided by the fact parties such as the DMK, the SP, and the BSP that will support the government in case there is a no-trust move are publicly committed to opposing the FDI decision. “A vote in the LS on
FDI would expose their double standards,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
Even the Left parties have backed the BJP’s demand for a debate on FDI under a rule that entails voting.
“The government cannot ignore the will of Parliament. It has to submit itself to this test, and should accept a debate without any delay,” CPM leader Sitaram Yechury said.
In the midst of this contest between the government and the opposition, the Trinamool Congress failed to muster support of the required 54 MPs to move a no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. But the party remained unfazed by this disaster.
“We knew right from the beginning that we did not have the numbers to back this motion. But we wanted to make it clear that we are against this government and want it to go,” Trinamool leader Saugata Roy said. “The fact that the opposition parties did not support us only exposes them.”
Though the first day was lost to disruptions, the Congress is trying to persuade all parties to ensure that the rest of the session passes smoothly. “With some give and take it should be possible to work out a formula to ensure that the session is not a wash-out,” a senior party floor manager said. Prime minister Manmohan Singh has hosted a dinner party for senior BJP leaders and Kamal Nath is expected to a hold an all-party meeting on Monday.