UPA has the numbers, says PM after FDI meet

Last Updated: Tue, Nov 27, 2012 10:23 hrs

New Delhi: The UPA is sure of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday after alliance partners met here to thrash out a consensus on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi−brand retail, an issue that has stalled parliament for four days.

"Yes, we are confident of the numbers," the prime minister told reporters after the UPA meeting here.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters: "The UPA is firmly united and all constituents said they are behind the government on any debate in the parliament."

According to the minister, the larger sense at the all party meet on the issue Monday was for a debate and not for a vote.

"I will consult the Speaker on the issue," he said.

The parliamentary affairs minister added that the government was not averse to a debate under any rule but it was for the speaker to decide.

"The government is not averse to discussion under any rule. We are not concerned about voting," Kamal Nath said after the one−and−a−half hour meeting in the parliament library building.

"Majority favoured debate under any rule. I will apprise (the) speaker. Let her decide," Kamal Nath said.

The opposition BJP and the Left want a discussion on the issue with voting to prove that the government does not have majority support in the house.

In a move to outsmart the BJP, Congress strategists have been wooing other political parties to vote for the decision.

Besides Manmohan Singh, others who took part in the meeting included UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi, Defence Minister A.K. Antony, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde and political secretary to Congress president Ahmed Patel.

The meeting had been called as UPA partner DMK had some reservations relating to FDI in multi−brand retail and wanted the UPA to discuss it.

Before the meeting, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi said his party will go in favour of FDI in retail in parliament if there is a debate followed by voting to stop a "communal" BJP from coming to power.

This added to the confidence of the UPA, said government sources.

"There is no denying...The possibility of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government falling if the debate on FDI in retail is taken under Rule 184 of parliament as demanded by BJP and other parties," Karunanidhi said in a statement from Chennai.

Stressing that the party was against FDI in retail, Karunanidhi said "communal parties" like the BJP would take advantage of the situation if the government collapsed.

Given this situation, there was a compulsion for the UPA government to continue, he said.

Though there is no danger to the government if it loses the vote as it is not a financial issue, it could be a political embarrassment.

Congress is the largest party in the UPA with 206 MPs. The DMK has 18 MPs.

Both houses of parliament were disrupted for the fourth day Tuesday as the opposition continued protests against the policy on allowing foreign investment in retail.

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