New Delhi: The issue of foreign investment in retail was furiously debated in the Lok Sabha Wednesday with the opposition lashing out at the move as the government, confident of its numbers, appealed to all parties to vote in its favour. All the while, focus remained on which way the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would vote.
Till late afternoon, as the debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail continued in the lower house for the second day, the stand of the SP and the BSP was still not clear. Both parties prop the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) from outside.
The government, which appealed to all parties to vote in favour of its move and overcome the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) opposition, could draw some consolation from the SP that said it was against FDI in retail but would not do anything to trouble the government.
"Netaji (SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav) has already made his position clear on the issue - that he is against FDI. Today, after the reply of the government, the Samajwadi Party will decide what to do at the time of the voting. We will not do anything to trouble the government," SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav told a news channel.
The BSP, too, said it would decide its final position at the time of voting.
"BJP is doing politics on the issue as it up to states to decide if they want to allow FDI or not. I don't understand why we are discussing the issue. I appeal to all political parties to vote in favour of the government and defeat BJP," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters.
Resuming the debate Wednesday, Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) Basudeb Acharia asserted that FDI in retail was not in the country's interest.
"We will not let Wal-Mart enter our country so easily, we will oppose it. We know the government will not let us win here, but we will take the fight from parliament to the streets and will hold protests across the nation against FDI," Acharia added.
Janata Dal-United (JD-U) leader Sharad Yadav urged the government to reconsider the decision.
The Biju Janata Dal (BJD) said it would trigger social unrest in the country.
"By allowing FDI in retail, we cannot legitimise the death of small retailers, farmers and small scale manufacturers. FDI in retail will lead to social unrest," Bhartruhari Mahtab said.
Giving the other side, UPA partner Nationalist Congress Party's Praful Patel said FDI in retail trade would help India progress.
"FDI in retail is the need of the nation," Patel said.
In the Lok Sabha, the Congress-led UPA has the numbers to carry the day.
The UPA has 245 members in the house, including 206 of the Congress 18 of the DMK and 9 of the Nationalist Congress Party. The count of parties supporting UPA from outside is 55, including 22 of the SP and 21 of the BSP. This takes the tally to 300, much above the half way mark of 273 in the 544-member house.
The National Democratic Alliance has 150 seats, including 115 of the BJP and 20 of the JD-U.
Former UPA partner Trinamool Congress (19 members) is expected to vote against FDI in retail.
The five Left parties have 24 seats, including 16 of the Communist Party of India- Marxist.
The NDA, Left and Trinamool numbers add up to 193.
Other parties like the Biju Janata Dal (14) and the AIADMK (9) together have 36 members and are expected to be divided on the issue.
Even if these parties vote against the government, the opposition numbers add up to 229, much below the half way mark of 273.
There are nine Independent members and they could go either way.
Even if either the SP or the BSP or both abstain or walk out, there would still be 257 votes in the government's favour, sources said.