FDI logjam continues, Opposition split on voting

Differences among Opposition parties over the strategy in Parliament on FDI in retail helped the government breathe easy as an all-party meeting failed to evolve a consensus on whether there should be voting on the issue.

New Delhi: Differences among Opposition parties over the strategy in Parliament on FDI in retail on Monday helped the government breathe easy as an all-party meeting failed to evolve a consensus on whether there should be voting on the issue.

Bolstered by tacit support from SP and BSP and Trinamool Congress` cold attitude towards the rest of the Opposition, UPA leaders will be meeting here tomorrow to firm up the government`s strategy. DMK, which has opposed FDI in retail, had demanded a UPA meeting on the issue.

At the all-party meeting SP and BSP, both opposed to FDI in retail, however, left the decision on voting on a motion to the presiding officers of the two Houses of Parliament, while Trinamool Congress had its own axe to grind at the rest of the Opposition for not backing its no-confidence motion last week.

TMC, the former ally of Congress, today maintained that it should be left to the Speaker to decide on whether there should be voting on the issue. It taunted the rest of the Opposition saying the government would not allow a voting and that was why it moved a no-confidence motion last week.

As the Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj declared that there will be no no compromise on the demand for voting on a motion under rule 184, Government said it was ready for a vote and not not averse to it but felt it would be a wrong precedent to vote on an executive decision.

UPA constituent, DMK, however, kept the suspense over
its position on voting while conveying its concerns over allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail. The party was vague on the issue whether there should be a vote.

Opposition parties, including NDA, AIADMK, BJD, Left parties, TDP and JD(S) insisted on a discussion under rules entailing voting making it clear that trouble will continue in Parliament which failed to transact any business for the third straight day today over the issue.

"There will be no compromise on (discussion under Rule) 184 (which entails voting)," said Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj after the two-and-a-half hour-long meeting.

Asked if the BJP would not allow Parliament to function, she replied, "no compromise at all... When I said no compromise, it means something."

Highlighting the fact that there was no meeting ground between the government and opposition over voting issue, Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete said, "There was a discussion but no decision."

The government got comfort as its outside supporters SP and BSP made it clear that they would be willing for discussion under any rule. They did not press for voting and left the decision to the Presiding Officers of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Trinamool Congress, which only last week moved a No-Confidence Motion over the FDI issue, sprang a surprise as it also did not insist on voting and said the Chair should decide the rule under which discussion could take place.

"When our no-confidence motion was refused, now let the
Speaker decide under which section discussion can take place," Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told reporters after the meeting chaired by Leader of the Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde.

"The Opposition is moving with a begging bowl in hand for Rule 184," he said.
Insisting that Trinamool is "totally against" introduction of FDI in retail and capping of subsidised LPG cylinders at six per year, Bandopadhyay said, "Let the Opposition bring another no confidence motion. We will support them. We had given them the golden opportunity of no- confidence motion and not just (rule) 184 or 193."

Rule 184 entails voting while Rule 193 does not.

At the meeting, DMK leader TR Baalu conveyed his party`s concerns over allowing 51 per cent FDI in retail. But he remained vague on whether or not his party would want voting on the issue.

AIADMK insisted on voting as did JD(U), BJD and some other parties.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma justified the decision by citing the difficult economic situation.

Sharma sought to reject the Opposition charge that the FDI decision was taken in a haste and without proper consultations. He said the government had discussed the issue with all stake-holders before the decision.

The government had taken the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail in November last year but put it on hold following strong objections from parties, including the then UPA constituent Trinamool Congress. The hold was removed in September this year.

BJD leader B Mahtab said his party has already given
notice under Rule 184 as it feels the FDI in multi-brand retail will ruin the agriculture and manufacturing sector.

RJD chief Lalu Prasad said a hue and cry was being raised as elections were not far away. The erstwhile NDA government had spoken about allowing 100 per cent FDI in retail, he said.

Prasad said the decision on the format under which discussion could be held should be left to Presiding Officers of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath later appealed to those wanting discussion with voting to reconsider their views and hoped that a solution will be found out.

"I have appealed to those who want discussion under Rule 184 to reconsider their views. I heard everybody`s views. I will discuss the matter with Presiding Officers of both the Houses to see how Parliament gets to work. We will find a way out," he told reporters.

The meeting was also attended by BJP leader LK Advani, BSP chief Mayawati, BJD`s Arjun Charan Sethi and SP`s Ram Gopal Yadav among others.

Describing the meeting as "very useful", Nath said, "All political parties have given their views that House must run. Political parties are unanimous that the House should run."

On the differences of opinions at the meeting, he said, "Some political parties expressed their opinions that they want discussion with voting. Many others have said they want discussion and does not matter under which rule... It should be left to Presiding Officers of both Houses."

Asked whether the government is shying away from voting, Nath replied in negative.

"We are not shying away from the vote but we have to respect the feeling of other political parties also," he said.