The UPA government on Monday said it was confident of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, a day ahead of the crucial debate and voting in the house on FDI in retail, and urged all parties to reject "politics" behind the issue.
"We are confident of the numbers," parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath told reporters. The debate will begin on December 4 and the voting will take place December 5.
Terming the debate as "pure politics", Nath urged all parties to reject the politics behind the motion sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
"I urge all parties to reject the politics of it and vote against the politics in the house," said Kamal Nath. "The policy is very clear that the states have to decide on allowing any (FDI in retail) proposal".
The Congress has issued a whip to all its members asking them to be present in the Lok Sabha on Dec 4 and 5 for the crucial debate and vote on FDI in retail.
The minister said the government would get the amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), required to facilitate FDI in multi-brand retail, passed in both houses, if needed.
"Passing it in one house is sufficient as per the rules. But if it is required, we will pass it in both the houses," Kamal Nath said.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury recently said that amendments to the FEMA need to be passed in both houses and the government's failure to do so will be challenged in court.
While the debate in the Lok Sabha will be held under Rule 184, in the Rajya Sabha it will be held under Rule 168, both entailing vote, said government sources.
Though the UPA government is confident of sailing through in the lower house, it does not have the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The role of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside, would be crucial in the Rajya Sabha, sources said.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav surprised everyone last week by saying, "If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass."
Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla said, "We are in touch with both the SP and the BSP. We hope they will vote in favour of FDI in retail."
BSP chief Mayawati said that her party does not support FDI and would decide how to vote on the "floor of house" December 5.
"Inviting FDI in retail without clauses for the use of local produce would mean an invitation to foreigners to earn maximum profits here. FDI in retail will affect farmers and small traders," she told reporters.
The SP is irked over what it feels is the UPA's support for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions, an idea backed by its archrival, the BSP.
"We are committed to the bill for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions," said Nath.
Of the total 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA has a strength of 90. With 27 outside supporters from the BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government tally stands at 117 as against the magical 123 figure for majority.
The opposition claims the support of 110 members. Besides, there are seven independents, five from smaller parties and 10 nominated.
The BJP and CPI-M had submitted separate notices for a debate with a voting provision.
The CPI-M also wants a vote on amendments to FEMA, tabled in the Lok Sabha Friday. Both houses of parliament have seen repeated disruptions on the issue since the winter session began Nov 22.