The coming week is more than likely to see a division in the Lok Sabha on the FDI issue. The numbers game has become central.
Congress managers are working hard on getting the support of parties who are not comfortable about supporting them on FDI-in-retail, to either abstain from the vote or stage a walkout. For instance, if the DMK, SP and BSP do not vote on the motion, the government numbers come down to 244 in Lok Sabha. Accordingly, the strength of the Lok Sabha comes down proportionately—an advantage for the Congress. Meanwhile, a senior BJP leader claims that with 151 of its MPs forming the NDA’s largest chunk, the anti-FDI-in-retail bloc would total 235 votes. This razor-thin margin is what is keeping the government on its toes. Consequently, UPA managers are eyeing the support of one-man parties and Independents such as Jaya Prada (MP from Rampur), Inder Singh Namdhari (Chatra) and Putul Kumari (Banka) to bail them out.
Both the BJP and the Congress are wooing Samajwadi Party honcho Mulayam Singh frenetically. Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla claims that the SP and the BSP “will not’’ do anything inimical to the interests of the government as they “don’t want to be seen aligning with the BJP’’. The Opposition is banking on the fact Mulayam had joined the recent anti-FDI rally in Delhi where top leaders of the BJP, CPI(M), CPI, JD(U) and other anti-Congress forces shared the platform.
Opposition sources also claim that the UPA’s managers have set their sights on the eight-odd Karnataka MPs who are supporters of the prodigal BJP chieftain B S Yeddyurappa, who has announced his decision to quit the BJP and float his own party, the Karnataka Janata Party. Sources close to Yeddyurappa say his supporters are nervous about defying the party whip and bailing the government out since it “would invite disqualification’’ and that their chances of supporting the UPA “were slim”. But “yes, they are being wooed”. Similarly, small discontented groups in the Trinamool Congress and JD(U) are too are being wooed to switch sides. If the defining parliamentary moment of UPA I was the vote on the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008, history may be on the verge of serving up a similar dish. The fate of UPA II and policy-making—in the immediate future and long term—may be decided by this week’s vote in Parliament, if it happens.
- Sunday Standard