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Why UPA govt can't afford to celebrate FDI 'victory'

Last updated on: December 5, 2012 22:46 IST

Why UPA govt can't afford to celebrate FDI 'victory'

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Renu Mittal in New Delhi

Renu Mittal analyses UPA government's 'victory' on FDI vote in Lok Sabha on Wednesday, and explains why the Congress-led coalition cannot afford to celebrate.

The United Progressive Alliance government may have won the vote on Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail in the Lok Sabha, but the numbers clearly indicate that the Congress-led government at the Centre, totaling only 253, has lost its majority.

The "victory" also shows that it has happened thanks to political management, manipulation and possible arm twisting of regional parties like the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party.

Both the parties from Uttar Pradesh, while crticising FDI in multi-brand retail on the floor of the Lok Sabha, bailed out the government by walking out before the vote bringing the figure of the House to 501 where 251 was required for the half way mark.

Together, the SP's 22 members and BSP's 21 members made up a figure of 43 MPs, which helped the government register a win when the House voted.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi attend a function in New Delhi
Photographs: B Mathur/Reuters

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'FDI versus CBI vote'

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While Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma had little by way of facts to defend the government in its decision to bring in FDI, particularly as it violated the assurance given by President Pranab Mukherjee that the government won't go ahead on FDI without consensus, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh stated that his government will continue the reforms agenda at any cost.

Interestingly, during the debate in the Lok Sabha, the government got hammered from all sides. Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said that out of the 18 parties, 14 spoke against FDI and said they did not want it. She said that if the numbers are calculated on the basis of who spoke what, those opposing FDI are 282, which, she said, clearly showed which way the wind is blowing.

Swaraj said that in the case of SP and BSP, it was 'FDI versus CBI', and that the government was using the probe agency to ensure that the two UP parties toed its line. 

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Image: Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj


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Mulayam under US pressure?

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Coming out of the House after the walkout with his band of 22 MPs, SP boss Mulayam Singh Yadav said they walked out "because FDI is anti-people and anti-farmer". On being asked why then his party did not vote against the government, he plainly said he did not want to be seen voting along with the Bharatiya Janata Party.

It was the same Mulayam Singh Yadav and the Samajwadi Party which bailed out the Manmohan Singh government on the issue of the Indo-US nuclear deal in 2008 where its MPs voted for the government when the Left quit the UPA I coalition. The SP got little in terms of its effort to save the government and could not find a place in the government nor any ministerial berths.

There is a perception that when push comes to shove, Mulayam Singh Yadav may scream and shout but he would not go against the USA -- as first the nuclear deal and then FDI are being pushed by that country and the strong lobbies it controls.

Within the Congress also there are murmurings of dissent with leaders and MPs expressing surprise over party chief Sonia Gandhi pushing for FDI, though the prime minister's commitment for better relations with the USA is by now well known and well documented.

Even as Sushma Swaraj made it repeatedly clear that the vote on FDI was not a 'communal versus secular' vote but a vote to save the 20 crore farmers and traders in the country, the Janata Dal-Secular and its leader Deve Gowda voted against the government on the ground that the FDI was 'anti-farmer'.

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Image: Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav


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'Congress engineering disruptions in RS'

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With the Rajya Sabha set to take up the FDI debate, sources said that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has asked the BSP MPs to vote with the government since it is difficult to make up the numbers in the Upper House without either of the two UP parties voting with the government and the other walking out.

While it may look odd that a political party can take one stand in one House and another in the other House, it is quite possible that Mayawati or even Mulayam can do this as they are not governed by the rules which apply to other parties.

They are emerging as shamelessly opportunistic and unscrupulous.

To base their stand on expediency is certainly not new for the regional parties. In the recent past the Trinamool Congress had done the same thing. They had supported the Lokpal Bill in the Lok Sabha and opposed it in the Rajya Sabha.

But the Rajya Sabha may face further disruptions over Mayawati demanding quota in promotion for SCs and Mulayam opposing this tooth and nail.

It is being alleged by the BJP that the government, which is unsure of its numbers in the Rajya Sabha, is engineering the protests and disruptions. The Rajya Sabha has been continuously disrupted over this issue. The protests are likely to be carried forward during the discussion on the FDI.

Within the government there is worry over the dwindling numbers and the fact that the government is not able to find new parties to add up the numbers. With an increasingly belligerent BJP snapping at the government at every turn, the government managers have their hands full in keeping it out of harm's way.


Image: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath has asked BSP MPs to vote for the government on FDI in Rajya Sabha
Photographs: Reuters

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