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PM dials up for numbers

delhi Updated: Dec 08, 2012 00:40 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji

From Bollywood icons to business tycoons and sick politicians - even one on a stretcher - the UPA left no stone unturned to mobilise support for its decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail.

Although the uncertainty over Friday's FDI vote in Rajya Sabha was over with BSP chief Mayawati pledging support for the government, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally called up members cutting across party lines.

NCP's Janardhan Waghmare came on a stretcher from Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital where he is admitted with a fracture, while Congress member Janardhana Reddy came in a wheelchair. Both voted from the lobby.

But Murali Deora, former petroleum minister, could not come following a recent surgery in Mumbai.

Singh also reached out to nine nominated members - except cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar, who is playing in Kolkata now - and also some independent MPs and opposition leaders.

Businessmen Vijay Mallya and Rajeev Chandrasekhar, both independent MPs from Karnataka, got the PM's calls. Mallya, who was in London, flew down for a few hours to vote.

Although Mallya refused to confirm it, PMO sources said he was indeed one of the members contacted by Singh.

Minister of state for parliamentary affairs Rajeev Shukla was assigned to ensure that Rekha- irregular in attending Parliament sessions - comes to vote.

Lyricist Javed Akhtar and Congress' Renuka Chowdhury helped her use the voting console.

But CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury argued that it is a moral defeat for the UPA.

"The margin of victory was just 14 votes - one less from the BSP's strength in the House. Had BSP abstained, the government would have suffered defeat."