FDI debate: UPA set to sail through in Rajya Sabha too

After trumping the Opposition in the LS vote on FDI in retail, the UPA government appears set to sail through comfortably in the Rajya Sabha as well.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: After trumping the Opposition in the Lok Sabha vote on FDI in multi-brand retail, the UPA government appears set to sail through comfortably in the Rajya Sabha as well.

During the debate in the Upper House on Thursday, BSP chief Mayawati assured the government that it will get her party’s support when the House votes on FDI in multi-brand retail on Friday.

Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav said they will walkout from the Rajya Sabha during the vote on FDI.

For the UPA, which lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha, the announcements came as a major boost.

The BSP’s support of 15 MPs, coupled with the Samajwadi Party’s (9 MPs) decision to abstain from voting, have put the government on a strong footing. At present, both the regional parties – though arch-rival in home state Uttar Pradesh – support the UPA from outside.

The government on Wednesday won the vote on allowing 51 percent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in the Lok Sabha after the BSP and SP walked out just ahead of the voting.

Speaking on the debate in the Rajya Sabha, BSP chief Mayawati said: "We will support the government tomorrow (Friday)," bringing much relief to the Congress, which had been involved in hectic back channel negotiations to muster the numbers.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, making a strong case for FDI, said it was a "national imperative". "There are moments in the life of a nation when certain decisions have to be taken at a particular period of time. We should rise above partisan politics. This policy will determine the future of India."

The Opposition led a strong attack on the Manmohan Singh-led government`s move to usher in economic reforms by allowing foreign multi nationals like Wal-Mart and Tesco.

BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said bringing in FDI would create "sales boys and sales girls". Hitting out against the UPA`s Lok Sabha win, he said the figure of 253 "can`t be seen as a win. When you are 18 short of majority, you cannot run the government as you please. After that Lok Sabha figure, you are a lame duck government."

Friday`s voting is likely to see a close fight between the UPA and the BJP-led Opposition.

In the 244-member House, the halfway mark is 123. The UPA’s strength is 89. With the BSP`s 15 members, its numbers will climb to 104. With the support of smaller parties, including Rashtriya Janata Dal, it will get six more votes, taking the tally to 110.

If the SP with its nine members walks out, or abstains from voting, as announced, the strength of members present and voting in the House will come down to 235. The halfway mark will then be 118.

On the other hand, the BJP and its main allies including Janata Dal-United, together have 65 votes. With the Left`s 14 members, and the Trinamool Congress` nine siding with it, the number will total 88.

Other parties against FDI include: Biju Janata Dal (7), Asom Gana Parishad (2), AIADMK (5), and Telugu Desam Party (5), which together take the opposition tally to 107 -- just three short of the government tally of 110.

Of the 10 nominated members, three including cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, may not be present due to personal reasons. If the remaining seven go with the government, the UPA tally will be 121, just two short of the half-way mark.

The Rajya Sabha saw eight hours of intense debate, with the DMK and NCP clearly spelling out their support for the government, though the southern party made it clear that it was against bringing in multi nationals into the country.

"We are relieved (after Mayawati`s announcement) but we will keep trying to garner support till the vote is over," said a senior Congress leader, who did not wish to be named.

Denying there was an understanding with the BSP on the FDI in retail issue in Parliament, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said, "There was no deal between her (Mayawati) and the government."

The motion in the Rajya Sabha is being debated under rules 167-168, which entail voting.

Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said: "If this was to be of any benefit to the people and the economy, we would have supported it. But this is not."

Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut taunted the government, saying it was "selling the country to foreigners like Wal-Mart. If Sukhdev, Bhagat Singh were alive, they would have bombed the people who are sitting here."

(With IANS inputs)