Numbers were “not a worry”, says government; only way to gauge sense of the House is through voting, says Sushma

The government is now reconciled to the prospect of a voting motion in Parliament on the issue of foreign direct investment in multibrand retail, after all its efforts to avoid it failed. However a clear picture would emerge on Thursday morning when the presiding officers of both Houses meet the floor leaders of all parties.

In a last ditch attempt, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath on Wednesday met Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her counterpart in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley here and requested them not to press for a voting motion.

However, the BJP leaders conveyed to the Minister in unambiguous terms that they would settle for nothing less than a motion under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha. Given its precarious numbers in the Rajya Sabha, the government would like to avoid a vote in the Upper House.

After the meeting, Mr. Nath told reporters that though the government was opposed to a voting motion, it decided to leave it to Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar and Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari to decide on the rule to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament.

Earlier, he also met the Lok Sabha Speaker and on Tuesday the Rajya Sabha Chairperson.

Parliament could not transact any business in the current winter session due to the logjam on the FDI motion. The government was opposed to a voting motion as some of the UPA allies like the DMK and supporting parties like the Samajwadi Party have reservations about allowing FDI in retail.

Besides, the government did not want to set a ‘precedent’ of a voting motion on an executive decision. But the Opposition pointed out that in 2001 the Lok Sabha had taken a vote on disinvestment of BALCO.

Sensing that the Opposition was in no mood to relent, the ruling party managers got into the act last week to prevail upon its allies and supporting parties not to go with the rivals.

That the Congress succeeded in securing the support of the DMK became evident when DMK chief M. Karunanidhi issued a statement in Chennai on Tuesday on the decision of his party to rally behind the government in the event of a voting motion, in the interest of the stability of the government.

The position of the Trinamool Congress, whose no-confidence motion failed due to lack of support from the rest of the Opposition, that it is not enthused by the voting motion on FDI has come as a bonus to the UPA.

The Samajwadi Party has not spelt out its stand publicly but indications are that it would not like to be on the same side as the BJP if it comes to voting even on an issue like the FDI.

Asked whether the government resisted a voting motion as it lacked the numbers, Mr. Nath maintained: “From day one, I have said we have the numbers.”

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