New Delhi: The government on Wednesday appeared to have agreed to a debate in Parliament on FDI in multi-brand retail under a rule that entails voting.
After meeting Leaders of Opposition Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj of the BJP for over an hour, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government wants both the Houses to run.
The minister said presiding officers of both the Houses should take any decision they want in the interest of running Parliament.
The minister’s remarks came even as Sushma Swaraj said the Opposition is sticking to its demand that a discussion on FDI in retail should be under Rule 184 that entails voting.
Speaking to reporters after meeting Kamal Nath, Swaraj said she along with Jaitley made it clear to the minister that the debate should be held under Rule 184.
“Why is the government not agreeing to debate under Rule 184 now that it is sure of its numbers? Even if the government loses the vote, only FDI will go and not the government ,” she added.
Earlier in the day, Kamal Nath had met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar to discuss the matter.
Sources said the debate with voting could be held on any two days beginning Monday.
It was a holiday today for Parliament on account of Guru Nanak Jayanti.
The indication from the government that it is preparing for a vote had come on Tuesday itself after the UPA coordination committee meet. This after allies DMK, SP and BSP, and former ally TMC clearly indicated that they would not embarrass the government if a vote is held in Parliament on FDI issue.
The BJP, whose parliamentary board also met in the morning yesterday, had stayed firm on its demand for voting on the matter, stating the government had backtracked on its promise made on the floor of the House.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told reporters yesterday after meeting UPA alliance partners that his government was on a solid footing. "Yes, we are confident of the numbers," Dr Singh had said.
According to informed sources, Speaker Meira Kumar will take a decision on the debating rules - 184 (debate with voting) and 193 (debate) - by Friday. The government may go for a debate by next week, the sources added.
While there is no danger to the government if it loses the vote as it is not a financial issue, it could cause political embarrassment.
The total strength of the Lok Sabha is 544. In a vote, the government will need only a simple majority.
The UPA, with its main allies, now has 245 members. The opposition National Democratic Alliance (NDA) has 150 seats and the Left have 24, taking it to a total of 174 assured votes against retail FDI.
Among other parties, Biju Janata Dal with 14 seats, AIADMK with nine and Telugu Desam Party with six have vowed to vote against the government.