UPA hopes for normal session amid FDI logjam
As opposition parties press for a vote on the issue of FDI in retail, the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government was Wednesday hoping that parliament's winter session Nov 22-Dec 20 would be smooth.
With a shorter time-frame of 16 working days and a heavy agenda of 35 bills -- 25 listed for consideration and passing and 10 for introduction -- the government hopes it would be able to pass important bills, especially those related to economic reforms.
The opposition parties, including the BJP and the Left parties, plan to corner the government by pressing for a debate and a vote on allowing 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail.
CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta Wednesday said the house may not be functional initially, as the government was reluctant to accept its demand.
Both the BJP and the CPI-M have given notices on the FDI issue under Rule 184, which entails voting.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supported by the trader community, is opposed to FDI, though it did not shy away from the idea during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule in 1998-2004.
Parliamentary affairs Minister Kamal Nath said he would talk with opposition parties over the issue.
Government sources said there was hope that the opposition would soften its stance and not project a united front against the government, in the wake of the hanging of 26/11 accused Ajmal Kasab.
Among the important bills being pushed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram are amendments to the Insurance Laws Bill to raise the foreign equity cap in insurance to 49 percent from the present 26 percent, the Banking Regulation Amendment Bill and the Direct Taxes Code Bill.
Within the UPA, the stand of the DMK is not yet clear on FDI, though all allies are together on major issues.
The month-long monsoon session Aug 8-Sep 7 was washed out after the BJP did not allow parliament to function over faulty coal block allocations, demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation.
The government could get only six bills introduced and six passed by either house of parliament in the monsoon session, which lost 13 of 20 working days to disruption.
The prime minister has already met UPA allies. Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are supporting the UPA from outside. The prime minister even tried reaching out to the BJP.
In September, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress quit the UPA over economic reforms, making the government dependent on the SP and the BSP.
The Trinamool Congress has said it will bring a no-confidence motion against the government on Nov 22 but no other party has supported it.
The government's point is that a state can choose not to allow FDI in retail, but it should not block the way if other states wanted it.