Amidst unrelenting pressure from the BJP and the Left, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday indicated that the government is prepared to debate FDI-in-retail with voting, but left it to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to take the final call. This he said only after he got the backing of UPA allies, including the DMK, at the coalition’s coordination committee meeting.
The BJP has been demanding a discussion on the FDI issue under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and Rule 163 in the Rajya Sabha and the Left too has put in similar notices. Though Nath seems to have put the ball in the Speaker’s court on the advise of UPA allies, he will meet the Leaders of the Opposition in the two Houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, on Wednesday to work out the modalities.
Following the meeting of coalition partners, an upbeat Nath told the media that “the UPA is fully united. The allies want the Speaker to decide, so I will consult the Speaker”. Mixed signals from the DMK was what had kept the government on tenterhooks.
Once DMK chief M Karunanidhi made it known that he would rather swallow the “bitter” pill of supporting the UPA on FDI than give the BJP any leeway, the Congress top brass heaved a sigh of relief and announced its readiness to face voting on the floor of the House.
Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sounded gung ho after the UPA allies’ meeting. “We are confident of the numbers,” he said, with the DMK’s 18 MPs firmly behind him. However, he and his managers are yet to reach a fine balance between the SP and BSP—the two rivals of UP politics—who lend crucial outside support to UPA.
The government needs both of them on its side to touch a decent tally of 300.
But, BSP chief Mayawati has put a condition for her party’s support on FDI. She wants the SC/ST Job Quota Bill to be tabled and passed, which her bete noir Mulayam Singh is opposing tooth-and-nail. Government sources, of course, claimed the two rivals will not do anything on the floor of the House to rock the boat. Parliament, therefore, will be in limbo till it meets on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the BJP hit out at the ruling Congress, saying it had managed the numbers for a vote on FDI-in-retail through “jugaad” (questionable means).