In the face of an Opposition determined to put the government on the mat in Parliament over its contentious move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday turned to recalcitrant UPA partners — the Trinamool Congress and the DMK — for help.
Given the reservations of the two key allies about the decision, the government is nervous at the prospect of an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha that entails voting. The UPA has been left with no option but to get its act together after the Opposition conveyed in categorical terms on Wednesday night that its motion seeking withdrawal of the FDI decision is ‘non-negotiable.'
Dr. Singh's effort on Thursday to get the TMC and the DMK on board appears to be inconclusive. It was evident when both Houses of Parliament were adjourned without transacting any business. The winter session, which began on November 22, has so for not transacted even a single day's business.
The BJP, on its part, sought to highlight the differences within the Congress to buttress its point that the government has no mandate to sanction FDI in retail. Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj argued that the silence of UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi and other senior party leaders over the subject was a sign of division between the government and the party.
Given the tricky situation, there is little chance of Parliament doing any business on Friday as well. The government gets time till December 7 to end the impasse as Parliament would have a short break.
Solace for UPA
The only solace the UPA could draw after Dr. Singh's interaction with the allies was a statement by the TMC that it does not favour a scenario that will lead to a collapse of the government.
TMC leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, dodging a direct reply on how his party would vote if an adjournment motion was moved, told journalists after the meeting with the Prime Minister, that it did not want the government to fall.
Informed sources said the Prime Minister had indicated that if the Opposition was able to carry the adjournment motion, the continuance of his government might become untenable. Mr. Bandopadhyay said his party's stand remained unchanged since the all-party meeting called by Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee earlier in the week — the party still wanted a rollback of the FDI decision.
On Dr. Singh's response to the TMC's objections, he said: “What we said has been heard carefully.”
The DMK's T.R. Baalu suggested that the policy could, perhaps, be kept in abeyance for a while, so that the government could educate the people on its benefits and create the right atmosphere for the policy's introduction.
On whether the DMK would support the government in the case of a vote in the House, he said no adjournment motion had been accepted so far. But, privately, the 18 MP-strong DMK has indicated to the Congress that in case of a vote, it will back the government — with the AIADMK in power in Tamil Nadu, the party cannot afford to destabilise the Central government.
The Left parties remained firm on the demand that the FDI decision be rescinded. They reiterated that the government was deliberately allowing the stand-off to continue as part of a strategy.
“It is becoming more and more apparent by the day that the government does not want this session to function. Because there are many issues which it may not want to discuss in Parliament,” Communist Party of India (Marxist) MP Sitaram Yechury said.
He said the government was bound to answer issues such as corruption, black money and take a stand on provisions in the proposed Lokpal Bill, including bringing the Prime Minister under the institution.
CPI Parliamentary Party leader Gurudas Dasgupta told The Hindu that there was no question of backing off from the stand that the decision on FDI be taken back.