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FDI: How the numbers stack up for UPA govt in Parliament

Last updated on: December 1, 2011 22:37 IST

FDI: How the numbers stack up for UPA govt in Parliament

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi

A determined and obdurate Prime Minister Manmohan Singh made it clear to the Congress allies in a meeting held on Thursday that he would not rollback the decision on Foreign Direct Investment in retail, but said that if they do not support the government decision, "the country could be heading towards a mid term poll".

 

According to senior leaders, the prime minister is trying to spook the Congress, allies and even the Opposition with the threat of a mid term poll in the event that his pet policy initiative is not carried by Parliament.

 

Number crunching has begun within the government as the prime minister is looking for new friends and allies as happened in the nuclear deal vote.

 

According to the numbers as per government sources, the Congress thinks it has a good chance to win the adjournment vote.

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The numbers drawn up by senior government managers are:

Congress – 207
DMK – 18
NCP – 9
NC – 3
JMM (Marandi group) – 2
Kerala Muslim League – 2
Independents – 9
Smaller parties – 9

Total -- 259


Add to this those who can possibly give support:

RLD – 5
RJD – 4

 

The strength of the House is 544 and if those who may possibly abstain (Trinamool Congress – 18, Shiromani Akali Dal – 4) are taken into account, the total stands at 522.

 

The majority mark is 262, according to current estimates.

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This arithmetic does not take into account the way the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party will go and whether the government can persuade either or one of them to support or abstain. At the moment both are against the government as are the BJP and the Left.

 

Government sources admit that the arithmetic for the government is very fragile and unless they have the backing or support of a big bloc, senior managers say they cannot take a risk and put the government in danger, just to satisfy the whims of a prime minister who is unwilling to 'listen to reason', as one leader put it.


At a meeting called at the prime minister's residence, which was attended by Trinamool Congress's Sudeep Bandopadhya, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam's T R Balu, National Conference's Farooq Abdullah and E Ahmed of the Kerala Muslim league, Dr Singh explained the reasons why FDI was necessary for the country and why the allies should support it.

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Sources said that during the meeting, Trinamool Congress put the government on the mat saying that the Congress took decisions as though it was a pure Congress government and did not consult the allies before taking the decisions.

Both prime minister and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee agreed that this should not be done and promised that soon a system of consultation would be evolved. It is learnt that when Pranab tried to explain economics and GDP etc, Bandhopadhya reacted strongly and said that GDP cuts no ice with the poor people of the country and that his leader Mamata Banerjee understood the pulse of the people and acted in their best interest.

 

While the Trinamool Congress has stuck to its stand of a firm no to supporting the prime minister, the DMK is divided over the issue of whether they would actually vote against the government.

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Congress leaders say that the prime minister is working on the psyche that no party or leader or MP wants an election, and has made it into his personal agenda just like the nuclear deal, which the Congress supported since the prime minister insisted on it.

 

Interestingly, Union Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, who is from the Trinamool Congress, did not attend the Cabinet meeting held on Thursday evening.

The question being asked is whether the Trinamool, which is part of the government, can afford to vote against the government or even abstain if the adjournment motion takes place.

Mamata has threatened to withdraw her ministers from the government if the prime minister goes ahead with the FDI in retail initiative. But at the same time, in a classic Mamata stand she does not want to be seen voting with the Left also. The option of abstaining is also open with her.

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With a successful traders' bandh called throughout the country to protest against the FDI in retail decision, the Opposition BJP has made it clear to the government that the wording of the adjournment motion is "non-negotiable" even as Pranab tried very hard to convince BJP leader L K Advani to agree to a wording, which would be acceptable to UPA's allies as well. 

Sources said that while the BJP appeared inclined at one stage, it decided to once again up the ante and made it clear they would not agree.


The government wanted the wording, 'the situation arising out of the government's decision to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail', but the BJP wants that the word "recall" should be added, which is not acceptable to the government.

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A senior Union minister, who has been part of the exercise to engage with the opposition leaders as well as its own allies, said the government was trying to avoid a situation where it would lead to voting in the House. But he added that "if it comes to a vote, everything will be alright".

 

The decision to field Commerce Minister Anand Sharma to give a brief to the Congress MPs on this issue and thereby elicit their feedback has been postponed till Friday morning, as the prime minister had called a meeting of allies on Thursday morning.

 

In another bid to garner support from the younger sections of society, the government has nominated 11 ministers of state to take part in talk shows on television and explain the government's stand on FDI. They include Sachin Pilot, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Jitin Prasada, Milind Deora, RPN Singh, Purundeshwari, Rajiv Shukla, Krishna Tirath, Ajay Maken, Ashwini Kumar and Pallam Raju.

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