UPA confident of FDI vote; Speaker to decide
Assured of its numbers, the UPA Wednesday appeared confident to face a vote on FDI in multi-brand retail to end the parliament logjam butsaid a final decision on the debate rules lay with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar.
According to government sources, a debate on the issue could start by Monday (Dec 3), and the vote could be held Tuesday or Wednesday if the government agrees for a debate under rule 184.
But since the matter relates to an executive decision, the Speaker could allow a debate with voting as a special case, said the sources.
UPA partner DMK, which had some reservations on the move, is now backing FDI in retail while the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party, which support the alliance from outside, have not taken a tough stand on the issue.
Sources said the two parties could support the government by abstaining from voting to address their respective constituencies.
The government got a shot in the arm after its erstwhile partner Trinamool Congress too said it had left on the presiding officers of the two houses the decision over the rules under which the debate should be held.
But the government is not sure of Trinamool support, which is expected to abstain if a vote take place, said the sources.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance is facing tough time as the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties have not allowed parliament to run since the winter session started Nov 22 demanding a debate under rule 184, which entails voting.
The government after holding two series of meets - first with all political parties and then with its own allies - tried to bring BJP to its side Wednesday.
But, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath's meeting with Opposition Leader in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and Opposition Leader in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitely did not seem to have the desired affect as the BJP stuck to its demand of debate with voting rules.
Emerging from the meeting, Kamal Nath said most MPs favoured a debate but were not rigid on the rule under which it should take place.
"Everyone wants discussion on FDI. But a larger number (of political parties) are not concerned whether the discussion is held with voting or without voting," Nath said after meeting the two BJP leaders.
"We have left the decision with the Speaker," he said.
Kamal Nath's meeting came a day after the UPA firmed up its numbers in parliament and said the talks were part of an effort to ensure the two houses function smoothly.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Tuesday also said the government was confident of its numbers - an indication that if the government has to face voting, they would be able to sail through.
"Presiding officers should take any decision they want in the interest of running parliament," Kamal Nath said.
Refusing to budge from its stand, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said if the government was sure of its numbers it should face voting.
"We have clearly said that parliament will function only after a debate under Rule 184. The PM (Prime Minister Manmohan Singh) has said that he is confident of getting the majority and the DMK is also supporting the government...if the numbers are in your favour then why don't you go for voting," Sushma Swaraj said after meeting Kamal Nath.
"It has become necessary for us now to voice our opinions and for that we need to vote," she said.
Among the Congress also there are two views.
While a section of Congress leaders said the party should take the opposition's challenge head on, others felt allowing a debate under 184 would set a wrong precedent and any future executive decision might be challenged in parliament.
The government's defence is that any state is free to allow or disapprove FDI in retail but should not block the way for others.