Walkouts by the Bahujan Samajwadi Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party (SP) ahead of the vote after debate under Rule 184 on allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail spared the government the blushes in the Lok Sabha. It managed to get 253 votes for allowing FDI; the opposition garnered 218.
Both the BSP and the SP had made their opposition to FDI clear during the debate. Had they stood their ground and voted, the government would have been in for a huge embarrassment as the two parties together have 40 seats. Everybody was keenly aware this — while wrapping up the debate, leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj said had the SP and the BSP voted with the opposition, then the FDI proposal would have been rejected. But the Congress managed the numbers game well enough. Prime minister Manmohan Singh had met Yadav and Mayawati separately in the run-up to the winter session. And, minister for parliamentary affairs Kamal Nath did some deft floor management, by keeping his flock together and monitoring the timely exit of BSP and SP members from the house.
In his reply to the debate, minister for commerce Anand Sharma admitted to differences on the issue of FDI, but he said consensus was the general agreement and not unanimity as was being claimed by the opposition. He said he had consulted 12 farmers’ associations, 17 consumer bodies and six food processing units, and had written to 21 states, 11 of whom had wanted FDI.