NEW DELHI (TIP): With the DMK stating it would vote with the ruling combine on its policy allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, a confident UPA government maintained it is prepared for a discussion under any rule, but left the final decision to the presiding officers of the two Houses.
The government had been stonewalling the Opposition’s demand for a vote on FDI as its southern ally DMK and its outside supporters, the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), had reservations on this issue and had said it would be difficult for them to vote in its favour. The UPA specially wanted the DMK to be on board, as it would have sent out a negative signal if a member of the ruling combine had voted against its policy.
It was, therefore, relieved to hear from DMK chief M Karunanidhi who announced in Chennai this morning that his party will vote with the government despite its opposition to the FDI policy, since it was more important to keep communal forces at bay. Having secured the support of its allies at a specially-convened meeting with them today, the UPA government is veering around to the view it might have to accept the Opposition demand for a vote. Emerging from the meeting, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh declared confidently: “We have the numbers.” In the same vein, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said, “The UPA is united.
The allies want the Speaker to decide,” adding that the government is “not averse” to a discussion under any rules. He is slated to meet Arun Jaitley, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, to discuss the modalities of the debate. Although it has mustered the numbers to defeat an Opposition-sponsored motion in Parliament, the UPA government is still making a last-ditch effort to see if a vote can be avoided as it does not want to set a precedent of putting executive decisions to vote.
Congress spokesperson PC Chacko admitted as much, but added they would agree to a vote on the FDI policy if it becomes “unavoidable for the smooth functioning of Parliament.” He, however, said the government was not running away from a vote because it does not have the numbers. “We have the numbers… we are united,” Chacko said. The winter session of Parliament has failed to transact any business since it began last Thursday as the BJP and Left made it clear that they would not allow the Houses to function if their demand for a vote on FDI was not conceded.