M A I N   N E W S

Maya, Mulayam keep up suspense
FDI debate begins today: Already short of majority in RS, govt focuses on LS win
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
With the BJP and Left parties all set to corner the UPA government on its decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment in the multi brand retail sector in a crucial debate in Lok Sabha tomorrow, the ruling combine is making all efforts to muster the numbers to defeat the vote in the Lower House and avoid a head-count in Rajya Sabha.

The two-day debate in the Lok Sabha being held under Rule 184 will culminate in a crucial vote on Wednesday. The discussion in the Rajya Sabha under similar rules is scheduled for December 6 and 7.

Since the UPA government is still not clear on how the numbers will stack up in the Rajya Sabha where it is in minority, it is pinning its hopes on winning the vote in the Lok Sabha to claim that its FDI policy had the mandate of the popular house.

The UPA needs 273 to win the vote in the 545-member Lok Sabha, but the number will come down if its outside supporters -- Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) -- abstain from voting.

Confident of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, UPA ministers privately maintain it is more crucial to win the vote in the Lower House as a defeat would make it difficult for the government to implement the FDI policy. Although it would like to avoid a vote in Rajya Sabha, it is preparing the grounds in case of a defeat.

It is being argued that a defeat in the Upper House does not have the same impact and will not force the government to reverse its FDI policy. “If you go by parliamentary conventions and norms, the government is accountable to the Lok Sabha... its real obligation is to prove its majority in this House,” remarked a UPA minister.

While the SP and BSP have kept up the suspense on their party’s stand on the vote, the government was encouraged by BSP chief Mayawati’s statement today, saying though she was against the FDI policy, she did not want to be seen supporting communal forces. With Mayawati indicating that her support is contingent on the passage of the pending Bill on quotas in promotions for SC/STs, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath publicly declared the UPA’s commitment to this Bill.

But this is bound to anger the SP, which is vehemently opposed to this Bill. A timely clash between arch rivals SP and BSP on this issue could derail the vote in the Rajya Sabha and bail out the government.

The UPA is on shaky ground in the Rajya Sabha. It has a strength of only 95 MPs in the 244-member House, well short of the half-way mark of 123. It is, therefore, heavily dependent on the nine-member SP and 15 MPs of BSP, who have not categorically stated which way they will vote. 








Maya support may hinge on quota Bill
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 3
Just a day ahead of the crucial FDI debate in the Lok Sabha that will put to test the government ability to push through the contentious economic reforms, key supporters from outside, the BSP and the SP, kept the Congress-led UPA government guessing by playing close to the chest.

MayawatiLooking for a firm commitment from the government on a Constitution Amendment Bill providing for promotions for SC/STs in government jobs first (a legislation that her rival in UP politics, the SP, is fiercely opposing), BSP chief Mayawati called the FDI in retail anti-farmer and anti-trader but insisted that her vote would depend upon the government’s reply following the debate.

As per Mayawati, a single positive that countered a large number of negatives stacked against the issue was the provision that it could not be forced upon the states. “The government is saying the FDI in retail will help in controlling inflation, our party does not agree with it. Middle-income people, retailers, farmers will be badly hit. It will also lead to unemployment. But, the plus point is that it will not be forcefully imposed on the states,” she said. Whether the party should be seen standing with those who “encourage communal forces” (read the BJP) would also be kept in mind, she added.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav also maintained suspense over his stand on FDI in retail. “I will clear my stand in the Lok Sabha,” he said. Some of the party leaders also issued veiled threats of scuttling the House proceedings on Tuesday.

With 21 members in the Lok Sabha and 15 members in the Rajya Sabha, the BSP has been aggressively pursuing for passage of the Bill. The SP with 22 members is the third largest party in the Lower House, but with nine members in the Upper House (where the UPA is in minority) it has a distinct disadvantage vis-à-vis the BSP as far as negotiating powers go. Notably, the introduction of the Bill in the last session had ended in a fist fight between the two regional rivals. 



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