WITH the Parliament session beginning on November 22, it’s sweating time for the government in power. The Opposition is joining forces to put the government on the mat over the contentious issue of FDI in retail. The allies are keeping the Congress-led UPA on tenterhooks.
The CPI(M) will be serving notice to move a motion, which entails voting against the entry of foreign players in the sector. The BJP is also flexing its muscles to take up subject in a big way and the DMK, a key UPA ally is keeping its cards close to its chest.
The Trinamool Congress meanwhile, while clearly not joining forces with its arch rival the Left, has decided to go ahead and move its own separate motion in Parliament on FDI in retail which will entail voting.
Following the withdrawal of support to the UPA by the Trinamool Congress several weeks ago and recently by the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen UPA has now been reduced to a minority government. The government also cannot take for granted the backing of the SP and the BSP, which are supporting the UPA from outside. The SP has been categorical in its opposition to the FDI. It is to be seen what position it would take if the motion comes up for voting.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has met BSP chief Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party over lunch and dinner respectively in what is being seen as an effort to firm up strategy and ensure a united front to face the Opposition in Parliament.
The BJP pointed out that in December last year the then finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee had promised in Parliament that India’s policy on FDI in retail would not be altered without consulting other parties. The JD(U) chief, Sharad Yadav made it clear that Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail and corruption would be “big issues” during the Winter Session.
Congress strategists are now working relentlessly to muster up numbers to defeat the motions. The motion will come up for consideration and voting only if Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar allow its introduction.
Trying to force the decision on the country, the Manmohan Singh government has allowed foreign players in through an executive order and the decision did not require Parliamentary approval.
Even if the motion is carried in either House, technically and legally the government is not bound to roll back the decision. Yet, politically it would not be prudent for the government to go ahead with it. If the government goes ahead with the decision it will appear that despite opposition from Parliament, the government is determined to push it down the people’s throat.
Minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs, Rajiv Shukla is working overtime to persuade the allies to rally behind the government. He is also holding parleys with the Opposition leaders. “We will discuss with the Opposition parties and try to persuade them,” Shukla said.
The CPI leader, D. Raja while speaking to the media said that the Left parties were in the process of moving motions — Rule 184 of Lok Sabha’s Rules of Business and Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha that entail voting after discussion on a matter. Mr Shukla, however, indicated that the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha chiarman first needed to admit the motions and this would also involve a discussion with political parties before it made to the house.
Former Rail minister and senior TMC leader Mukul Roy told the media that the government has to face Parliament and see if the majority of the members support its decision on FDI in retail. “ This is clearly a minority government and it definitely has no mandate in Parliament supporting it on this anti-people decision,” Mr Roy added.
“BJP will strongly oppose the government’s decision on FDI in multi-brand retail in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. This decision is not in the interest of the country,” Mr Ravi Shankar Prasad, chief spokesperson of the party, said.