Senior BJP leaders LK Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over dinner on Thursday at a time when Parliament is witnessing a deadlock over the provision under which FDI in retail is to be discussed. Both sides stuck to their stated positions, with the Prime Minister calling upon the BJP leaders to support FDI in retail in the “national interest” and the BJP demanding a vote in Parliament.
The BJP wants a debate followed by voting because it sees broad opposition unity for this, while the government says executive decisions cannot be voted upon.
The BJP has, however, cited the vote in 2001 on BALCO disinvestment, which was an executive decision, during the NDA days to urge for a vote.
Swaraj and Jaitley gave notices under Rules 184 and 167 which entail voting in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha in that order. Sharing the dais with CPM leader Sitaram Yechury at a traders’ meet, Jaitley accused the government of trying to wash out the session by not agreeing to a vote. He told the media that executive decisions are subject to parliamentary censure and the government will have to take a cue if Parliament votes against it. He said voting was the essence of democracy and it was “preposterous” to suggest it shouldn’t happen.
The BJP didn’t help the Trinamool get its no-confidence motion admitted in the Lok Sabha because it thought that there was little agreement on a no-confidence motion.
“Sushma Swaraj told Sudip Bandopadhyay that it was better to try Rule 184 first, as Left and Right are together on it, and the SP and the DMK had also taken part in the bandh against retail FDI,” a BJP leader told HT. “Preparations are in place to corner the government under Rule 184, but not on a no-confidence motion.” In the dinner, Swaraj is believed to have told him of precedents in the NDA days when the BALCO issue was discussed under Rule 184.
“Congress can’t run Parliament on obstinacy and arrogance,” BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
A BJP leader saw a wider anti-Congress front coming up around Rule 184, saying a no-confidence motion would “give oxygen” to the government for six months if it won it.