FDI bill crosses LS hurdle, still a touch-and-go in RS

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Discussion in Upper House today, voting likely on Friday

The controversial decision to allow FDI in multibrand retail may have been cleared by the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, but the government still cannot take it for granted that the matter will pass muster in the Rajya Sabha too.

Though parliamentarty affairs minister Kamal Nath, said the government was confident of mustering the numbers, the fact is the numbers game is very much open as the matter comes up for discussion in the Rajya Sabha on Thursday and a vote on Friday.

The government needs the support of 123 members in the 244-member Rajya Sabha to defeat the opposition motion. In a minority in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA, with 89 members of its own, has outside support from Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, Nagaland People’s Front, Bodoland People’s Front and Sikkim Democratic Front which together have seven members. Thus on the government’s side there will be 96 members.

BSP (15) and SP (nine), which tipped the scales in favour of the UPA in the Lok Sabha by walking out before the vote, have not made their positions clear on what their action may be in the Rajya Sabha. Both parties otherwise extend support to the government from outside.

In the opposition lineup, BJP with allies JD(U), Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal together have 65 seats. The left parties have 14 members and Trinamool nine.

Besides, the opposition motion is expected to be get the support of Biju Janata Dal (seven members), Asom Gana Parishad (two), AIADMK (five) and Telugu Desam Party (five). Thus, the opposition tally will be 107.

The opposition motion can only be defeated if BSP and SP do not walk out and vote for FDI, which is unthinkable in view of their public stand on the issue. Thus, to go past the half way mark, UPA has to wean away a few more members to its side in the vote.

SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav had said if there was a vote in the Rajya Sabha, the party would vote against it. But his party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav gave a slightly altered position, saying that a decision would be taken at the right time. BSP leader Mayawati also said her party’s stand would be decided at the time of voting.

In the Lok Sabha the numbers tipped in favour of the government on Wednesday after SP and BSP walked out.

On the day as the Lok Sabha was debating the FDI matter, the Rajya Sabha saw disruptions over the BSP demand for SC/ST quotas in promotions in government jobs and was adjourned. The House was adjourned but not before an uproar as BSP and SP members shouted at each other.

Mayawati also pressed her demand for a B R Ambedkar memorial in Mumbai on his 56th death anniversary.

Arun Jaitely, BJP leader and leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, later alleged that the government was not serious about running the Rajya Sabha smoothly and was “deliberately trying to create an atmosphere where the House cannot function. I have a suspicion that the government is unsure which way the Rajya Sabha will vote. So it is not letting the House function. We doubt they will allow the debate on FDI tomorrow.”

In the Lok Sabha BSP and SP abstained from voting, helping the government to get past the half way mark. Among the 542 Lok Sabha members, SP has 20 and BSP 21. With both parties abstaining, the total number of voting members in the House was 471. This reduced the half way mark to 236, and hence the UPA sailed through with 251 votes against the motion which was backed by only 218 members.

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