FDI: Government mobilising numbers, may opt for parliament vote

New Delhi : Faced with deepening political crisis over its decision to allow foreign equity in retailing, the government is now mobilising the numbers before it accepts the opposition’s adjournment motion entailing a vote to end the parliament logjam that continued for the eighth day Thursday, informed sources said.

The sources said the government has stepped up its efforts and is doing some math to manage the floor if the adjournment motion followed by a vote is moved. If it happens, parliament may get back to work from next week, they said.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Thursday met the Congress allies in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) to discuss the issue of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail they are opposed to.

While many constituents of the ruling combine favour the FDI in retail, key partners Trinamool Congress and the DMK are still insisting on the rollback of the cabinet decision. The two parties at present have 18 MPs each in the Lok Sabha.

Another ruling partner, the Muslim League Kerala State Committee (MLKSC) that is opposed to the decision has two MPs.

Manmohan Singh met leaders of these parties at his official residence to try to iron out the differences. The meeting was attended by Farooq Abdullah of the National Conference, Sudeep Bandyopadhyay of the Trinamool Congress, T.R. Baalu of the DMK and E. Ahamed of the MLKSC, as also Commerce Minister Anand Sharma of the Congress.

The sources said the DMK has already assured the government that it would seek some amendments to the decision but would vote for the government. The Trinamool, however, is a more vocal opponent.

“Our stand remains the same. We want a discussion. But we don’t want the government to fall,” Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyaya told reporters after the meeting with Manmohan Singh. He refused to divulge more details.

But the sources said a compromise formula has been “almost worked out”. While the Mamata Banerjee-led party would continue to oppose the decision, it will abstain from a vote.

With this, the Trinamool would not be seen aligning with the Left and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). And at the same time, it would also not side with the government on this particular issue.

If the Trinamool abstains from the vote, and the DMK favours the government, the numbers in the Lok Sabha will be in favour of the key reforms in the Indian retail sector.

The government is also trying to reach out to the Samajwadi Party that has 22 MPs and the Bahujan Samaj Party which has 21 MPs.

If the two Uttar Pradesh parties agree to walk out or abstain during the vote, the threshold of those present and voting will be brought down. This will make it easier for the government to defeat the motion without the Trinamool Congress.

In the 543-member house, the half-way mark is 272. The government without the Trinamool and with the DMK is likely to manage 264 votes.

If both the SP and the BSP abstain or either of them decides not to participate, the votes against the motion would be brought down decisively in favour of the government.

Since vote on an adjournment motion is not a trust vote, the government would not fall if it loses it but that would mean withdrawing the FDI decision. This would be embarrassing for the government.
IANS

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