Vote on FDI in both houses; Mulayam may vote against govt in Rajya Sabha

Last Updated: Thu, Nov 29, 2012 17:58 hrs

New Delhi: The UPA cleared the initial hurdle Thursday with parliament returning to normalcy after the government agreed to a debate on FDI in retail but it is yet to cross the bridge by winning the vote in both houses next week.

A debate with voting on the issue is expected in the Lok Sabha Dec 4 and 5 and later in the Rajya Sabha, said sources.

Though the government is confident of sailing through in the lower house, it does not have the numbers in the upper house.

The role of the Ramajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the United Progressive Alliance government from outside, would be crucial here, said sources.

But the Samajwadi Party (SP) threw a surprise by saying it would oppose foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi−brand retail in the Rajya Sabha.

SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav said: "If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass."

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav kept the UPA guessing and said his party would wait for the "right opportunity" to take a decision.

"In politics, you wait for the right opportunity and only then take the decision. There should be serious discussion on this (FDI)," Mulayam Singh told reporters.

The SP is furious over what it feels is the government's support for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions −− an idea backed by the SP's arch rival, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).

The Congress expressed hope the SP would come on board finally.

"We are hopeful that the SP will support the government in the Rajya Sabha," Congress spokesman Rashid Alvi told reporters.

"We hope the majority will support the stand taken by the government," said Alvi.

In the Rajya Sabha, of the total 245 members, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) claims the strength of 90 members with 27 outside supporters from BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, making it 117. The opposition claims the support of 110 members. Besides there are seven Independents, five smaller parties and 10 nominated members.

The government's nod to a debate with voting signalled an end to the five days of logjam in parliament over the issue.

While the debate in the Lok Sabha would be held under Rule 184, which entails voting, in the Rajya Sabha, it would be held under Rules 167 and 168. Each house has a similar but different set of rules for debate and voting.

The government agreed to a debate and a vote in the upper house after the members made strong protests.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath met Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley separately.

Later, Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari called a meeting of leaders of political parties.

Earlier, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar allowed the debate in response to notices submitted by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India−Marxist (CPI−M) for a debate under Rule 184.

"I have allowed a debate on FDI retail under Rule 184," she said.

BJP member and Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj assured the house would run smoothly after the debate.

"I thank you for allowing the motion and I assure you that now the house will run smoothly," she said.

The CPI−M welcomed the decision.

"Finally, the government agreed to have a debate on FDI with vote, but if they would have done it earlier, so much time would not have been lost," CPI−M leader Sitaram Yechury said.

But Yechury said even if the government won the vote, his party would move amendments when the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) came in parliament.

The FEMA will have to be amended with approval of parliament to allow FDI in retail.

Both houses of parliament saw repeated disruptions on the issue of FDI in retail since the session began Nov 22.

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