Game-changer Mayawati assails BJP

Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati will prove a game-changer in Friday’s crucial vote on the opposition motion on the FDI issue in the Rajya Sabha, she having pledged the BSP’s support to the United Progressive Alliance government.

The Samajwadi Party, which like the BSP extends outside support to the government, declared outside Parliament on Thursday that its nine MPs would walk out of the House when the motion under rule 168 comes up for voting. Thus, the government seems set to win the vote in the 244-member House.

While nominated member Sachin Tendulkar is not available and with the SP walking out, the effective strength of the House will be 234. The half-way mark for the UPA to defeat the opposition motion will be 117. With the 15-member BSP committing itself to vote against the motion, the UPA will have the support of 110 members. With the backing also of nine nominated members to the government, the number of those opposed to the motion will go up to 119, ensuring its defeat.

In the House, even as the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left attacked the FDI in retail policy, seeking its withdrawal, Ms. Mayawati said that as it was optional for States to implement the policy, her party decided to throw its weight behind the government. On Wednesday, her party, as also the SP, walked out of the Lok Sabha, helping the government win the vote.

Earlier, the SP said it would vote against the policy in the Rajya Sabha but on Thursday, its leader Ram Gopal Yadav told journalists that the party would stage a walkout.

Jaitley’s poser to U.P. rivals

Demanding withdrawal of the policy initiated by a “minority government,” AIADMK leader V. Maitreyan and leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley attacked the BSP, the SP, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Nationalist Congress Party for helping the government despite their reservations about FDI in retail. They said the measure was earlier opposed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi too.

Rejecting the arguments in favour of the policy, Mr. Jaitley charged the government with basing its debate on “deception” and “concoction” of figures for post-harvest waste. “Creating cold storage is not rocket science and so complex that you should end India’s food security and hand over our food supply chain to foreigners.”

Turning to the BSP and SP benches, the BJP leader said, “You know the policy is harmful to the country. If you are willing to proclaim, you should be willing to strike.”

Ms. Mayawati devoted much of her speech to lambasting the BJP leaders for their remarks that her party was helping the government under CBI pressure, saying they were making such charges after they found that the “grapes were sour” as the BJP’s game plan did not succeed.

She reminded the main opposition party that it was the National Democratic Alliance government which initiated a CBI inquiry against her in a Taj Corridor case when she declined to go in for an alliance with it in the 2004 elections in Uttar Pradesh.

Ms. Mayawati also took umbrage at the remarks made by the Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha that she had invoked the “brother-sister” relationship while seeking the BJP’s support for passage of the Bill on reservation in promotions for SC/STs, saying it was senior BJP leaders who had come to her house to make her a “rakhi sister.” This led to an uproar, prompting Chairman Hamid Ansari to adjourn the House for 10 minutes.

Earlier, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar said that at this stage of economic development permitting FDI in retail was a “national imperative.”