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Posted on Dec 06, 10:13AM | IBNS
Two days of fierce debate and political maneuvering by India's government ended on Wednesday as it secured a victory in a parliamentary vote over allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail with the help of unlikely allies even as the Opposition cried foul.
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) led by the Congress won the vote on allowing 51 percent Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, defeating an Opposition motion against it.
The ruling coalition got 253 votes in their favour, well over the 236-vote requirement after a walkout lowered the halfway mark.
Much of the credit for the win went to Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) of Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) who abstained, making it easier for the UPA to win, political analysts said.
A total of 218 members cast their votes against FDI in multi-brand retail after the motion brought by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj was put to vote.
A total of 471 lawmakers were in House during the voting.
UPA also won the vote on FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act) amendments by garnering 254 votes in their favour.
UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday expressed happiness over the win in Lok Sabha on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail.
"Happy about win, not worried about Rajya Sabha," Sonia Gandhi was quoted as saying.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told TV channels: "FDI policy has the approval of the house."
The BJP however said that the victory was actually a moral loss for the government as it exposed how 14 out of 18 parties in the House were opposed to the economic reform.
Bharatiya Jatanata Party (BJP) leader and Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj said: "The debate on FDI that has been going on since Tuesday was detailed and meaningful.
"I am happy to say that 14 of the 18 political parties in the House have gone against FDI. Four parties have however supported the government's decision."
Swaraj said the government has "won politically but lost morally."
West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee called the win of vote on FDI in multi-brand retail in Lok Sabha by the UPA as a "shame" and reiterated that the government is indeed a minority government as proved in the voting.
"It is a shame! The mandate today proves that the UPA-II is a minority Government. As against the majority figure of 271, based on the total strength of the House, the support was only 253, despite all attempts made by the selfish people," she posted on Facebook soon after the FDI vote win by UPA.
"This Government has lost its credibility. They must take fresh verdict from the people," she said.
The last to debate on the FDI in multi-brand retail was TMC, which in September walked out of the UPA government over the issue and other clutch of big bang economic reforms announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
Trinamool Congress MP Saugata Roy said there is no harm if someone wants to go Swarovski and buy crystal, but FDI in multi-brand retail sector would ruin traders and farmers.
Roy said there was no consensus on the issue though Congress claimed there is.
Before him, BJP MP and leader of Opposition in House Sushma Swaraj urged all lawmakers to think twice before pressing the button and think about crores of Indians instead of foreign multinationals.
"FDI will go while the government would remain," she said urging even the Congress party and its ally lawmakers to vote against FDI in multi-brand retail.
Swaraj said many were forced to give a leeway to the government on FDI owing to the fear of federal investigating agency CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation).
The BSP and SP lawmakers earlier walked out of the Lok Sabha on Wednesday ahead of the voting, paving the way for the UPA government to win the vote.
The 43 lawmakers of the two parties, which lend outside support to United Progressive Alliance (UPA), walked out when Union Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma was defending the government decision on FDI in retail and before Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj spoke.
With the walkout the House strength had fallen and made it easier for Congress led UPA to win the vote.
After walking out, SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav said they walked out because they were against FDI in multi-brand retail.
"We would not vote was the decision of the party. It was best decision," he said, but did not reply to reporters with a clear answer when asked that his voting could have been a bigger protest against FDI.
Earlier, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta slammed the Prime Minister during the debate in the Lok Sabha on the FDI in multi-brand retail issue and said he (the PM) was ready to sacrifice the government for retail giant Wal-Mart.
"For the cause of Walmart, the Prime Minister is even ready to sacrifice his government," Dasgupta said.
"The government believes economic situation of the country is grim. And it believes FDI will rescue the Indian economy from the crisis," he said.
The Lok Sabha debated the matter for the second day with lawmakers like Janata Dal (United) Sharad Yadav attacking the government sharply for imposing the decision on people.
"Roll back FDI in multi-brand retail, or else we will roll back the government," Yadav said debating the issue.
He said if they had wanted the government to fall they would have backed Trinamoo's no-confidence motion.
He said the government wants Wal-Mart in India for the few who prospered owing to the government since the MNCs are not coming to help or serve the people.
"I am not averse to market forces, but is this the way," he said.
Basudeb Acharya of Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) said they would not allow Wal-Mart easily in India and would take the battle to streets from Parliament.
"Neither consumers, nor farmers would benefit," he said.
However, lawmakers like Praful Patel, who represents Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), said FDI would do good to India and all the panic reactions are uncalled for.
"Our farmers and traders and labourers are all geared up to take up global challenges," he said.
He said local markets would not be hurt by FDI in retail and globalization would not kill industry.
The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh earlier had said the government was confident of winning the vote on FDI in retail.
"Why would we have a debate if we were not confident?" he had said.
A heated debate on this issue took place in the lower House on Tuesday.
While Congress led UPA bailed itself out in Lok Sabha, in Rajya Sabha it stands a crucial test since the Congress lacks adequate numbers in the upper house.
The FDI debate under Rule 168, which entails voting, is set to take place in the Rajya Sabha on Dec 6 and 7.
Once again the role of Mayawati-led BSP and the Mulayam Singh-led SP are seen as the deciding factors for the vote in the Rajya Sabha.