NEW DELHI: The logjam in Parliament over FDI in retail ended on Thursday with a discussion on the issue allowed with voting but key UPA supporter Samajwadi Party kept everyone guessing on its stand in Rajya Sabha where the government is in a tight position on numbers.
While SP leader in Rajya Sabha, Mr Ramgopal Yadav, whose party has nine members in the House, said his party would vote against FDI in retail, the party supremo, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav was not that forthright.
A breakthrough in the five-day impasse came when the Lok Sabha Speaker, Ms Meira Kumar announced in the House at the start of the proceedings that she has decided to allow a discussion on the contentious government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail under Rule 184 that permits voting.
Close on the heels of the resolution of the dispute in Lok Sabha, the Rajya Sabha Chairman, Mr Hamid Ansari called a meeting of leaders of all parties and decided to allow a discussion under Rule 168 that entails voting.
The discussion in the Lok Sabha will take place on December 4 and December 5 while in Rajya Sabha it is yet to be decided.
The end to the parliamentary deadlock came after government persuaded reluctant allies like BSP and SP and UPA constituent DMK to fall in line with their support during the vote.
The Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Mr Kamal Nath held discussions with leaders of various parties on Monday and with leaders of Opposition Ms Sushma Swaraj and Mr Arun Jaitley on Wednesday when he indicated government’s readiness to face the vote.
However, politics of Uttar Pradesh over the Constitution (amendment) bill to provide for reservation in promotion to scheduled castes and scheduled tribes may impact on the voting on the FDI issue. The government has promised to get the bill passed in this session in a bid to woo the BSP, a move that has displeased SP.
The Samajwadi Party, which has 22 members in Lok Sabha and nine in Rajya Sabha, gave mixed signals on how it would vote. Party leader in Rajya Sabha said the SP would oppose the government’s decision in the upper House.
"We will vote against FDI in Rajya Sabha if the government brings it here," Mr Ramgopal Yadav told reporters making it clear that they would also strongly oppose the SC/ST bill.
Asked if the party would vote against FDI in Lok Sabha, he shot back, "Ask our leaders in Lok Sabha." To a question, he said a party voting differently in the two houses has happened in the past too.
However, Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav was not that forthright on how his party would vote. "As far as FDI is concerned our party is strongly opposed to it," Mr Yadav told newspersons in Lucknow.
When pressed on what stand his party would take in the Parliament, Mr Yadav said, "In politics, the future cannot be foretold. Decisions are taken as per the situation," he said.
His son and UP Chief Minister, Mr Akhilesh Yadav that the decision on voting would be taken by the party president.
"The issue of FDI will be decided in the House," he said when questioned on the issue.
In the Lok Sabha, at present the UPA enjoys the support of about 265 MPs in a House of 545. With the support of the Samajwadi Party (22) and the BSP (21), the backing for the ruling coalition goes a little over 300, which is comfortable over the required 273.
However in Rajya Sabha, where the UPA coalition does not have the numbers on its own, the government may have problems in case of a vote.
In a House with an effective strength of 244, the UPA and its allies have a strength of about 94 members. There are ten nominated members who may vote with the government. Among the seven independents, three or four may go with the government.
In case of a vote, the BSP with 15 members and the SP with nine members hold the key.
Still the ruling coalition may have to persuade outside supporters BSP (15) and SP (9) to positively vote with the government to avert a defeat that will be embarrassing.
Both the ruling and the opposition expressed confidence of having their way in a vote on FDI in retail.