DMK, a key UPA ally, is keeping its cards close to its chest on the party’s stand

The Opposition is gearing up to put the government in a spot over its decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail during the winter session of Parliament beginning on November 22.

With the CPI(M) serving notice to move a motion, which entails voting against the entry of foreign players in the sector, the BJP making it known that it would rake up the subject in a big way and the DMK, a key UPA ally, keeping its cards close to its chest, the ruling party managers have a tough job in mustering the numbers to defeat the motion.

The motion will come up for consideration and voting only if Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar allow its introduction after satisfying themselves that it is according to the rule book.

The Manmohan Singh government has allowed foreign players in through an executive order and the decision did not require Parliamentary approval.

Even assuming that the motion is carried in either House, legally the government will not be bound to roll back the decision. However, politically it would not be prudent for the government to go ahead with it.

There is no surprise element in the stand of the Opposition as well as some of the UPA allies and supporting parties on FDI in the multi-brand retail sector. What has changed the equation is the withdrawal of support to the UPA by the Trinamool Congress several weeks ago and by the Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen on Tuesday, technically rendering the UPA a minority government.

As things stand, the government cannot take for granted the backing of the SP and the BSP, which are supporting the UPA from outside. The SP has been categorical in its opposition to the FDI. It is to be watched what position it would take if the motion comes up for voting.

Senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury told journalists here: “Any such decision [allowing FDI in multi-brand retail] will have to be endorsed by Parliament and the government should not go behind the cover of saying that this is an executive decision.”

The decision to move the motions was taken at a meeting of the top brass of the CPI(M), the CPI, the RSP and the Forward Bloc here on Monday.

While Mr. Yechury signed the Rajya Sabha notice, his senior party colleague Basudeb Acharia sent the notice for the Lok Sabha seeking that the two Houses reject the government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.

Rule 184 of the Lok Sabha’s Rules of Business and Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha entail voting after discussion on a matter.

The principal Opposition BJP also said it would strongly oppose the government decision on FDI in Parliament. At the National Council meet of the party in Surajkund last month the BJP indicated that it would reverse the decision if the party was voted to power.

BJP chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said that his party would discuss its strategy with other NDA partners and also get in touch with political parties which have reservations about the issue. The NDA allies are likely to hold a meeting on November 21.

In Chennai, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi, whose party has 18 MPs in the Lok Sabha and is the second largest UPA constituent, in response to a question, said that the party's views would be made known after consultations with DMK Parliamentary Party members. Finance Minister P. Chidambaram called on Mr. Karunanidhi on Monday.

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