New Delhi, Dec 3: Ahead of the debate and vote in Parliament, outside supporters of the UPA — the BSP and the SP — on Monday kept the government guessing on their support on the issue of FDI in retail.
As Lok Sabha takes up discussion on the FDI issue on Tuesday with a provision for voting on Wednesday, BSP chief Mayawati and SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav sent mixed signals but government expressed confidence it has the numbers and will win the floor test.
Addressing a press conference in New Delhi, she gave indications that she could support the FDI policy by noting some positive points of the FDI policy but still refused to disclose her strategy.
“BSP's decision on voting will be disclosed on the floor of Parliament when the issue comes up for voting... The only plus point of this policy of the Centre is that if a State does not want to implement the FDI policy then it will not be forcefully imposed on that State.
“Our party has taken serious note of this. Our party is also seriously thinking whether it should be standing with those parties that encourage communal forces,” Mayawati said.
The BSP has 21 members in the Lok Sabha and 15 in the Rajya Sabha, where the government needs the positive vote of both the parties to defeat the Opposition motion. The SP has 22 members in the Lok Sabha and 5 in the Rajya Sabha.
Mayawati's remarks on Monday are seen as an attempt to put pressure on the government to promise early passage of the Constitution amendment bill providing for reservation in promotion for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government service, an issue the SP is strongly opposed to.
On his part, the SP chief also declined to open his cards. “We will oppose FDI, which is already understood. Why do you want me to speak? What I have to say I will say in the Lok Sabha,” he told reporters when asked what his party would do in the two Houses.
The Rajya Sabha will debate the motion on December 6 and 7.
In a bid to woo the BSP, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath declared that the government was committed to the Constitution amendment bill.
Meanwhile, Congress has issued a whip to all its members asking them to be present in the Lok Sabha on Dec 4 and 5 when the crucial debate and vote on FDI in retail will take place, party sources said Monday.
"We have issued a whip to party MPs to be present in the Lok Sabha Dec 4 and 5," a senior Congress leader told IANS.
The government said it is confident of defeating the opposition sponsored motion against allowing 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail.
The UPA government Monday said it was confident of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, a day ahead of the crucial debate and voting in the house on FDI in retail, and urged all parties to reject "politics" behind the issue.
"We are confident of the numbers," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters. The debate will begin Dec 4 and the voting will take place Dec 5.
Terming the debate as "pure politics", Nath urged all parties to reject the politics behind the motion sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).
"I urge all parties to reject the politics of it and vote against the politics in the house," said Kamal Nath. "The policy is very clear that the states have to decide on allowing any (FDI in retail) proposal".
The Congress has issued a whip to all its members asking them to be present in the Lok Sabha on Dec 4 and 5 for the crucial debate and vote on FDI in retail.
The minister said the government would get the amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), required to facilitate FDI in multi-brand retail, passed in both houses, if needed.
"Passing it in one house is sufficient as per the rules. But if it is required, we will pass it in both the houses," Kamal Nath said.
CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury recently said that amendments to the FEMA need to be passed in both houses and the government's failure to do so will be challenged in court.
While the debate in the Lok Sabha will be held under Rule 184, in the Rajya Sabha it will be held under Rule 168, both entailing vote, said government sources.
Though the UPA government is confident of sailing through in the lower house, it does not have the required numbers in the Rajya Sabha.
The role of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside, would be crucial in the Rajya Sabha, sources said.
SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav surprised everyone last week by saying: "If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass."
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said: "We are in touch with both the SP and the BSP. We hope they will vote in favour of FDI in retail."
BSP chief Mayawati said that her party does not support FDI and would decide how to vote on the "floor of house" Dec 5.
"Inviting FDI in retail without clauses for the use of local produce would mean an invitation to foreigners to earn maximum profits here. FDI in retail will affect farmers and small traders," she told reporters.
The SP is irked over what it feels is the UPA's support for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions, an idea backed by its archrival, the BSP.
"We are committed to the bill for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions," said Nath.
Of the total 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA has a strength of 90. With 27 outside supporters from the BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government tally stands at 117 as against the magical 123 figure for majority.
The opposition claims the support of 110 members. Besides, there are seven independents, five from smaller parties and 10 nominated.
The BJP and CPI-M had submitted separate notices for a debate with a voting provision.
The CPI-M also wants a vote on amendments to FEMA, tabled in the Lok Sabha Friday. Both houses of parliament have seen repeated disruptions on the issue since the winter session began Nov 22.