An uneasy combination of the BJP, the Left and the estranged UPA ally, the Trinamool Congress, is set to provide fireworks during the winter session of Parliament beginning next week.
The issue: The government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail sector through an executive decision.
At least 15 MPs belonging to the BJP-led NDA, Trinamool and Left parties had till late Wednesday evening served notices under Rule 184 that provides for voting after discussions on issues of public interest in the Lok Sabha.
A key UPA ally, the 18-MP DMK — critical for the government to protect its strength of 298 MPs in a House of 543 — added a new twist to the situation by refusing to commit its support on the issue.
Party chief M Karunanidhi said in Chennai: “Small and medium retail traders in Tamil Nadu are apprehensive about FDI... I have written the script for more than 100 films. A film would be successful only if it has suspense.”
The government, however, said it was ready to discuss any issue. But it also made it clear that the executive decision taken in September to allow 51% foreign investment in retail did not require the approval of Parliament since no changes were made in the existing laws.
The Opposition argued that the government cannot bypass Parliament.
“The decision to allow FDI will have to be endorsed by Parliament and the government should not hide behind the cover of an executive decision,” said CPI(M)’s Sitaram Yechury.
Aware of the fact that the government has the numbers, the Opposition is planning to divide the ruling alliance on this issue. Both the government and the Opposition will be keenly watching what stand the two traditional rivals in Uttar Pradesh — the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party — take on the issue.
Publicly, both the parties are opposed to FDI in retail, but with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh having met their top leaders personally, there are indications that they would not like to embarrass the government.
On the other hand, a coordinated opposition strategy appears to be to cajole the two parties into taking a clear stand in Parliament in a bid to push the government on the back foot morally, since this is the maximum that can be achieved through voting on a non-binding motion.
“We would like to put the government on the mat,” said the BJP chief spokesperson, Ravi Shankar Prasad.