With the DMK firmly on its side, the government on Tuesday indicated it was ready for a vote in Parliament on the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail, signalling a possible end to the house logjam.
Confident of numbers, parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath declared that the government was not not averse to discussion on the FDI issue under any rules, remarks that were interpreted as its readiness to face a vote.
He is slated to meet leaders of opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley tomorrow as part of efforts to break the deadlock.
Nath, along with his deputy Rajiv Shukla, met Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari to brief him on the meetings of leaders of all parties yesterday and the UPA constituents today. The parliamentary affairs minister will also meet Lok Sabha speaker. The government has left the decision on the mode of discussion to the presiding officers.
"We are confident of numbers," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters after an hour-long meeting of the leaders of UPA, which presented a united picture, as news came from Chennai of DMK extending its support to the government during any voting on the FDI issue.
"The UPA is fully united on any decision of the speaker and the Government... all constituents are firmly behind the government," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said.
Asked if the government was ready for a vote, Nath said government is "not averse" to discussion under any rules. "I said it yesterday. I am repeating it today," he said.
"Larger numbers (parties at the UPA meeting) were in favour of discussion to be decided by the speaker," he said.
Nath said the issue was discussed today at the UPA meeting and he will meet the speaker to convey the sense of the meetings of all party leaders yesterday and UPA leaders.
However, sources said, government has conveyed to Lok Sabha that it did not favour voting on FDI in retail in Lok Sabha arguing it would send a wrong precedent of voting on an executive decision taken by the government. At the same time, it has left the decision to the speaker.
Opposition BJP and Left parties insisted that the discussion on FDI should be followed by voting.
While in Lok Sabha, the government appears to be comfortably placed in the numbers game with promise of support from SP and BSP and DMK's open backing today. Trinamool Congress with 19 MPs has also been cold towards Opposition demands for a vote on the issue.
In the lower house, at present the UPA enjoys the support of about 265 MPs in Lok Sabha of 545. With the support of Samajwadi Party (22) and BSP (21), the backing for the ruling coalition goes a little over 300, which is comfortablely over the required 273.
However in Rajya Sabha, where the UPA coalition does not have the numbers on its own, may have problems in case of a vote.
In a House with an effective strength of 244, the UPA and its allies have a strength of about 94 members. There are ten nominated members who may vote with the government. Among the seven independents, three or four may go with the government.
Still the ruling coalition may have to persuade outside supporters BSP (15) and SP (9) to positively vote with the government to avoid any last-minutes hitches.
The BJP and the Left parties are still insisting on a vote on the issue. The BJP alleged that government was using its "instruments" to turn the "negative" votes to "positive".
"We are ready for a discussion on FDI in retail only under Rule 184 (which entails voting). The country wants to know which party really supports or opposes FDI in retail.
"There were some parties which were earlier opposed to it but are now supporting FDI," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
In a huge relief to UPA, DMK decided to back the UPA government in Parliament on the FDI FDI in multi-brand retail sector when the discussion on takes place.
The party has decided on this course with "bitterness" so that communal forces do not take advantage of the situation and come to power, DMK Chief M Karunanidhi said.
"One should not forget the situation of the UPA government falling if a discussion and voting takes place under rule 184 in Parliament accepting the demand of BJP and some other parties," he said.
DMK's decision comes two days after Congress emissary Ghulam Nabi Azad met Karunanidhi to take the second largest UPA constituent on board.
"Though there may be thousands of differences still persisting on the issue and considering the consequences if the government falls at the Centre, in bitterness, the DMK has decided to support the UPA government on the issue", Karunanidhi said.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who is also the leader of the Lok Sabha, said, "By Monday, everything would be decided and everything would be settled."
Finance minister P Chidambaram said the government was serious on ending the deadlock in Parliament.
"The work is not complete. We will spend several hours tomorrow and Thursday. We are very concerned about the deadlock in Parliament," he told reporters.
Chidambaram said government spend two and half hours with all the parties yesterday and two hours with UPA constituents today to try to end the logjam.
UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, defence minister AK Antony, RLD's Ajit Singh, DMK's TR Baalu, NCP's Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, National Conference's Farooq Abdullah and finanace minister P Chidambaram were among those who attended the UPA meeting.