A trial of strength over FDI in retail issue will be witnessed in Parliament next week, with the Lok Sabha deciding to have a discussion on December 4 and 5 on the issue under a rule that entails voting, a strident demand of the Opposition.
Parliament to vote on FDI in retail: Meira Kumar
While Rajya Sabha will also have a similar discussion, the date and timings for it will be decided after consultations with various political parties.
The decision led to an end to the logjam in Parliament on Thursday on the issue which had paralysed proceedings for four days with the Left and the Right making a common cause.
Following an all-party meeting and discussions with UPA leaders, the government signalled its readiness for such a debate after parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath held consultations with Leaders of Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley yesterday which saw BJP sticking to its stand.
Four days after the Opposition paralysed the proceedings in both Houses of Parliament, the government relented on the issue by leaving the matter to be decided by the presiding officers.
This will be the first such trial of strength in the 15th Lok Sabha. There have been very rare occasions that a discussion of this sort on executive decision has taken place.
With SP and BSP giving support to the government in Lok Sabha and key ally DMK deciding to go with it to keep communal forces at bay, the Congress-led coalition is confident of its numbers.
"I have received 30 notices for discussion on FDI in multi-brand retail under Rule 184. I have admitted the motion to allow the discussion," the Speaker Meira Kumar said.
But in Rajya Sabha, in a discomforting news to the government, Samajwadi Party today said it will vote against FDI in the Upper House where UPA does not have majority on its own.
"We will vote against FDI in Rajya Sabha if the government brings it there," SP leader in the Upper House Ramgopal Yadav said. SP has nine members in the 244-member House.
After a meeting of leaders of all parties chaired by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajiv Shukla said that the government has agreed to a discussion on FDI under rule 168 that entails voting.
He said that the date and timing of the discussion will be decided later after consultations with leaders of all parties.
UPA and its allies have a strength of 94 members in the Upper House. The ten nominated members may go ahead to vote with the government. BSP has 15 MPs and SP nine.
Among the seven independents, three-four may support the government. BSP, which extends outside support to UPA, has 15 members and it has said that it will disclose its stand on the issue on the floor of the House.
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, Trinamool Congress with 19 MPs has also been cold towards the Opposition demand for a vote on the issue.
UPA enjoys the support of about 265 MPs in Lok Sabha which has total strength 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 a comfortable figure over the required mark of 273.
Meanwhile, BJP accused the government of having "different yard sticks" for Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha on the issue of FDI discussion.
Why Congress is opposed to voting in Rajya Sabha? asked BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu.
Talking to reporters outside Parliament, Naidu said, "This sort of tactic is not going to help Congress. It will boomerang on Congress. Otherwise there is no rational explanation for applying different yard sticks (on FDI discussion) in Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha."
While the government has allowed FDI discussion with voting in Lok Sabha, the same has not been done in Rajya Sabha yet.
His party colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad said government is running away from holding discussion on FDI.
"BJP wants Parliament to function. We want discussion with voting on FDI in retail. We want it in both Houses. But government is busy in 'jugad' (managing) technology. How long the country will wait. Govt is running away from discussion.
We have repeatedly asked for discussion under voting clause. We are ready for discussion on any issue," Prasad said.
"The Speaker has already admitted it in Lok Sabha. It is all the more surprising why government wants to avoid it in Rajya Sabha. Both Houses are independent and separate. Then why this differentiation between Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha."
Naidu said it is not the main Opposition party which is responsible for stalling proceedings in Parliament. "It is their own allies who are going to the well of the House, they are raising slogans and some of them are carrying placards. So it shows all is not well in the UPA".
He said Congress is hurting the interest of the country.
"One policy is for Lok Sabha another is for Rajya Sabha. They are allowing voting in the Lok Sabha but did not want it in Rajya Sabha."