In a major boost to the ruling UPA, ally Bahujan Samaj Party has assured its support to the government on the FDI issue, giving it more numbers during voting in the upper house, where it lacks a majority.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance hopes that with BSP's 15 members now in its kitty, it would be able to persuade Samajwadi Party, with nine MPs, to abstain from voting - as it did in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. The two regional parties prop the UPA from outside.
Announcing her party's support to UPA's decision on FDI, BSP chief Mayawati she on Thursday said, "We have decided to vote in favour of government on FDI in multi-brand retail issue tomorrow (Friday)." BSP has 15 members in the Rajya Sabha and the party had on Wednesday staged a walkout in the Lok Sabha, helping bail out the government in the vote.
'Enough numbers with UPA?'
Friday's voting is likely to see a close fight between the UPA and the BJP-led opposition.
In the 244-member house, the halfway mark is 123.
The UPA strength is 89 and would climb to 104 with the addition of Bahujan Samaj Party's (BSP) 15 members. If the strength of parties supporting the government from outside like Rashtriya Janata Dal (2), Lok Janashakti Party, Nagaland People's Front, Bodoland People's Front and Sikkim Democratic Front (one each) is added, the UPA tally goes up to 110.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and its main allies Janata Dal-United, Shiv Sena, and Shiromani Akali Dal together have 65 votes. If the 14 members of the Left parties and nine of Trinamool Congress are added, the count of votes against foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail will be 88.
Parties like Biju Janata Dal (7), Asom Gana Parishad (2), AIADMK (5), and Telugu Desam Party (5) will further take the opposition tally up to 107 -- just three short of the government tally of 110.
Congress managers claimed most of the seven Independent MPs will support the government. Even if four of them vote in support, the UPA tally will be 114, they said.
Out of the 10 nominated members, three including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, actress Rekha and Congress leader Murli Deora may not be present due to personal reasons, said the sources.
If the remaining seven nominated MPs go with the government, the UPA tally will be 121, just 2 short of the half-way mark of the total house strength, sources said.
However, they said the picture would become clear only on the floor of the house, adding that winning the vote is going to be a close fight
Congress managers said they were in touch with both the BSP and the SP, whose 43 members together helped the government Wednesday defeat the vote on the motion against FDI in the Lok Sabha.
A section of the Congress leaders said the SP could walk out or abstain from the vote, as it did in the lower house.
"We don't know how the SP will behave during the vote," said the Congress leader adding" "We have to keep trying to get the numbers on our side till the voting is over."
'SP-BSP not a reserved force'
Despite the two parties giving a helping hand on the FDI in retail issue, the Congress has steered clear of questions that SP and BSP are its reserve force.
"Why you are asking me? You ask the respective political parties," party spokesperson Renuka Chowdhary told reporters.
She was replying to a query whether Congress views SP and BSP as its 'reserve force' given the fact that the two parties have repeatedly bailed out the Congress in tricky situations.
BJP has been alleging that the Congress-led coalition was using CBI to get SP and BSP on board on many issues to which they are in principle opposed.
"Forgive them they do not know what they are saying," was Chowdhary's dismissive response when asked about the Opposition charge that BSP and SP voted for the government due to the fear of CBI.
She also dismissed claims by BJP and other Opposition parties that the vote on FDI in retail showed that Congress was leading a minority government and the majority was in favour of not allowing the FDI.
'BSP stand smacks of deal with Cong'
The BJP on Thursday alleged that the manner in which BSP changed its stand on the FDI in retail issue within "one day" by announcing that it will vote with the government in the Rajya Sabha smacks of a deal between the party and the ruling Congress.
"Why this metamorphosis in the BSP in one day? They boycotted FDI in retail during the debate in the Lok Sabha but have declared open support to it. BSP must explain what was the compulsion that led to the change," Deputy Leader of BJP in Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
Mayawati announced in the Rajya Sabha that BSP will vote with the government on the FDI in retail issue. The party had staged a walkout on Wednesday in the Lok Sabha, moments before the FDI issue was put to vote.
"The surrounding circumstances are too suspicious to indicate a deal between BSP and Congress," Prasad said.
Mayawati is facing charges of possessing disproportionate assets which are being probed by CBI. She was served a notice by the Supreme Court in the case.