New Delhi: With the UPA government agreeing to hold a debate and a vote on the controversial foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail from December 4, the Parliament is expected to function smoothly as it convenes after a two-day break on Monday.
Although, the Congress government last week agreed to a debate and vote on the FDI issue in Lok Sabha, UPA`s fragile numbers in Rajya Sabha continue to worry the ruling coalition.
The government last Wednesday held discussions with Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, Leaders of the Opposition in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, on the issue.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath conveyed to the two BJP leaders that the government was not averse to a debate entailing voting.
Both sides stuck to their respective positions on FDI?issue, while the BJP leaders insisted that the debate should be under Rule 184 which requires voting. Nath informed them that the government would leave it to the presiding officers of the two Houses to decide the mode of debate.
Aware that UPA will have to scramble for numbers in the upper House, the government suggested that a vote could be done away with in Rajya Sabha. However, the proposal was rejected by both Swaraj and Jaitley.
Assured of the support of other opposition groups like Left, AIADMK, BJD and smaller outfits like AGP and TDP, the BJP leaders saw no need to withdraw their demand for a vote in both Houses, leaving the government to deal with unenviable choices.
Some ministers voiced the view that the Lok Sabha vote was crucial and a loss in the upper House could be swallowed. But while this might look like an effort to reconcile with the situation, government managers do not want to lose a vote in Parliament.
The UPA`s change of heart came after it received a boost from its allies, which assured it of having the numbers to survive the vote.
The UPA government got a breather after DMK veteran M Karunanidhi announced his party, an ally of UPA, would support the government “to keep the BJP out of power.”
It is also likely that the friendly UPA partners such as SP and BSP will not vote against the government despite their opposition to FDI.
The Upper House has an effective strength of 244, even the abstention of SP and BSP will bring the halfway mark down to 110, leaving the UPA well short at 95 MPs. The odds may improve a bit if BSP`s 15 MPs vote for the government, but just SP abstaining means the halfway mark rises 118. In a closely divided House, there are hardly any unattached votes.
BSP leader Mayawati has said she will decide her stand once a relevant motion is before Parliament. The BSP supremo has made it clear that her cooperation hinges on the government moving a contentious bill seeking to grant reservation in promotions for SC/ST government employees.
SP leadership is likely to oppose the bill tooth and nail, equating it with their resistance to the proposed law providing 33% quota for women in all legislatures.