New Delhi: It seems Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government will have to face a daunting task to convince its alliance partners and Opposition parties over the FDI in retail issue to ensure that Parliament functions smoothly during the Winter Session.
The road ahead is certainly tough for the Manmohan Singh-led coalition government as principle opposition party Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) along with CPI-M on Wednesday announced that they will oppose the government decision on FDI in retail in Parliament.
Interestingly, key UPA ally DMK said its decision would be taken keeping in mind the interest of small and medium traders. The Congress faces big challenge ahead as its other alliance partner Samajwadi Party (SP) is opposed to FDI, and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is yet to open its cards.
At present, the government enjoys the support of about 265 MPs, including 18 of DMK, in a house of 545. With the support of Samajwadi Party (22) and BSP (21), the backing for the ruling coalition goes a little over 300, which is comfortable over the required 273 in Lok Sabha.
UPA’s old ally Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress is also strongly opposed to allowing FDI in retail sector and is expected to join hands with the opposition to corner the government.
The Winter Session of Parliament will start Nov 22 and end Dec 22. Most of the Monsoon Session was washed out as the BJP did not allow Parliament to function over allegedly faulty coal blocks allocation.
BJP to oppose government in Parliament
Refusing to give up on the FDI in multi-brand retail issue which could affect its core vote bank of small traders, BJP on Wednesday said it will oppose the government decision in Parliament and try to build a joint strategy with NDA partners and other political parties.
"BJP will strongly oppose the government decision on FDI in multi-brand retail in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. This decision is not in the interest of the country," party chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
He announced that BJP will discuss its strategy with other NDA partners and also get in touch with political parties which have reservations on the issue.
The NDA allies are likely to hold a meeting on November 21, a day before the winter session begins.
"We would like to put the government on the mat on this issue. In November 2011, the then Finance Minister had announced in the Lok Sabha that a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail will be taken only after consulting all concerned sections. A similar statement was made by the then Commerce Minister in the Rajya Sabha," Prasad said.
BJP charged that this promise has been violated by the government as it has taken the decision unilaterally.
But the principal Opposition is not yet clear to what extent it will go against the government in Parliament.
Though the opposition claims to have support of majority of MPs in both Houses on the issue, the NDA is unlikely to press for a vote on the issue.
CPI-M wants discussion on FDI
The CPI-M said today it has given notices for debate on FDI in both houses under rules that entail voting, and asked the government to take Parliament approval for its executive decision allow FDI in multi-brand retail.
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury told reporters that party members have served notices in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha seeking discussion on the issue during the winter session of parliament, starting Nov 22.
"We wish to take it up for a proper discussion under rules that entail voting," Yechury said.
BJD to vote against UPA govt
Ruling BJD in also said it was opposed to UPA`s move in its present form and would vote against UPA government when it comes up in Parliament.
"We are opposed to FDI in retail in its present form. The party has already given notices both for division of votes and discussion in Parliament," BJD`s Chief Whip in Lok Saba Bhartuhari Mahtab told a news agency over phone.
DMK keeps up suspense
Continuing the suspense over its stand on any Opposition-sponsored resolution in Parliament against FDI in retail, crucial UPA ally DMK said its decision would be taken keeping in mind the interest of small and medium traders.
"Small and medium retail traders in Tamil Nadu are apprehensive that Foreign Direct Investment would greatly affect them. We would discuss and take a decision on this (FDI) keeping their interest in mind," DMK President M Karunanidhi told reporters here.
To persistent queries on why DMK was maintaining suspense on its stand over the FDI issue and whether it would support a no-confidence motion against the UPA Government, Karunanidhi, also a well-known screenplay writer, said: "I have written the script for more than 100 films. A film would be successful only if it has suspense."
In case of voting, the support of DMK, the second largest UPA ally with 18 Lok Sabha MPs after the exit of Trinamool Congress, is crucial for the UPA.
UPA expresses confidence
Meanwhile, the UPA government expressed its confidence about meeting the challenge, but it was clear it faces an uphill task persuading its allies on the issue as some of them opposed the decision in the past.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari expressed confidence of bracing the opposition challenge and said the Congress would "cross the bridge when it comes to it".
"The Parliament session has not begun yet. The floor leaders of the various political parties are yet to meet. When push comes to shove, we will not be found wanting," he said.