Ahead of Monday’s all-party meeting called to break logjam in Parliament over the government’s decision to allow foreign investment (FDI) in retail, the Congress’s effort to bring its sulking ally DMK on board on the issue failed to make much headway.
Union health minister Ghulam Nabi Azad rushed to Chennai on Sunday to meet DMK supremo M Karunanidhi to seek a firm assurance from him that his party will abstain if not vote in favour of the government in case the opposition demand for discussion under rules that entail voting is accepted to resolve the deadlock in Parliament.
The first two days of the winter session last week had already been washed out even as the Left parties and BJP-led NDA remained adamant on their demand for a vote on the issue.
“My visit was to obtain the views of the DMK chief on discussion on voting if any and whenever it takes place in Parliament. I must be candid enough to say that he has lot of reservations about retail FDI,” Azad said after the meeting.
DMK— the second largest UPA constituent— is opposed to the FDI and at a dinner hosted by PM Manmohan Singh for the UPA allies last week it had suggested that a vote be avoided as its political constituency in Tamil Nadu was against the decision.
On its part, the Congress remained unwilling to allow the executive decision face a vote in Parliament but could opt for a debate under rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and 167 in the Rajya Sabha only if the three parties — DMK, Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) — agree to at least abstain during voting.
Though both SP and BSP have kept the Congress guessing over its respective stand in the event of voting, party leaders were hopeful that the two parties would not rock the UPA boat given that no political party wanted an election at this juncture. There are indications that the two parties might once again — directly or indirectly — help the government tide over the crisis, Congress sources said.