The winter session of Parliament beginning on Thursday would begin on a stormy note as the government and the opposition so far have failed to agree on the rule under which the decision of the Manmohan Singh government to allow FDI in multi-brand retail.

The opposition, a key ally of UPA DMK and Samajvadi Party which is supporting the alliance from outside want the discussion on FDI under a rule which entails voting. The best the government is ready to concede, as things stand, a debate under a rule which sans vote.

At a meeting of the floor leaders of the Lok Sabha convened by the Speaker Meira Kumar it was abundantly clear that neither side are willing to budge from their positions.

The Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj is believed to have conveyed in so many words to the government representatives at the meeting that it was not possible for the parties opposed to FDI to allow normal functioning of the Parliament if the government does not give in to the demand for a voting motion.

The NCP leader and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar speaking on behalf of the ruling combine made it known that it was not fair on the part of opposition to force the government to accept its demand on the conduct of business in the house.

He minced no words in suggesting that it is not possible for the government to allow a voting motion on what is essentially an executive decision. The statement of the Union Commerce Minister Anand Sharma that there is no precedence of a voting motion on an executive order of the government has been contradicted by the CPM General Secretary Prakash Karat who has pointed out that the Lok Sabha did vote in 2001 on an executive decision of the government on disinvestment in BALCO.

The Congress spokesperson P.C. Chacko argued that the FDI in multi-brand retail and disinvestment in a public sector company can not be compared as the later pertained to not to disinvestment per se but the method involved in the process.

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was scheduled to meet the three senior leaders in Parliament last week, is scheduled to meet L.K. Advani, Mrs. Swaraj and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley over dinner in a bid to persuade them to agree for a non-vote debate on FDI. However, given the mood in the opposition camp the initiative might not succeed.

Dr. Singh or a senior Minister like A.K. Antony is expected to reach out to the DMK chief M. Karunanidhi with a request to reconsider his party position on FDI in multi-brand retail. Indications are that the UPA managers are also in touch with leaders of the SP and JD (U).

At the Speaker’s meeting the CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta batting for a voting motion on FDI maintained that it is important to ensure functioning of Parliament to debate several other important matters. There was consensus among the leaders on the suggestion of the CPI leader that the government must come out with a white paper on the dire state of the economy.

In the tug of war between the government and the opposition on the FDI, the proposal of the Trinamool Congress chief Mamta Banerjee for a no-confidence motion have found no takers.

Ironically, it is the Congress which is asking the opposition to no-trust motion as the ruling party is confident of mustering required numbers to defeat it. The fear of defeat as well as un-preparedness on the part of several parties is precisely the reason the opposition wants to avoid it.

Several opposition leaders are of the view that defeat of the no-trust move would enable the government to claim that it has the endorsement of Parliament on all its decisions. In contrast a voting on FDI could create difficulties for UPA constituent DMK and outside ally Samajwadi Party are opposed to it.

Mr. Chacko told reporters that his party welcomes if anybody brings a no-confidence motion to test whether the government, which is taking certain decisions, has majority in the House.

He also dismissed as “futile exercise” the breach of privilege notices given by BJP MPs Prakash Javadekar and Rajiv Pratap Rudy against Union Minister Anand Sharma, who had assured the House that all stakeholders would be consulted before a decision is taken on FDI issue. “Where is the breach? I do not think it will pass even the first test.”

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