The ordeal is over for the United Progressive Alliance government which on Friday won the vote on the policy on FDI in multi-brand retail sector in the Rajya Sabha with generous help yet again from the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party.
Just before the Opposition motion was put to vote, the SP walked out, reducing the effective strength of the House by nine members. The BSP’s 15 MPs voted against the motion that “disapproved’’ of the government’s decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail sector. The BSP said it backed the UPA to thwart Opposition attempts to demand the resignation of the Manmohan government on the ground that it did not enjoy a majority.
Subject to confirmation, the Opposition motion was defeated, with 102 members voting in favour and 123 against it. Voting was done twice as in the first exercise some aberrations crept in in the machines.
Clearly it was Mayawati’s BSP which made all the difference. Had the BSP not voted against the motion, the Opposition would have managed to come pretty close to the half-way mark. Those who voted against the motion included nine nominated members and six independents.
Among the voters was actress Rekha in one of her rare appearances. Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, Congress member Murli Deora, BJD member Pyarimohan Mohapatra and B.N. Singh of the JD(U) were not present. Two ailing members in wheelchair were allowed to vote in the lobby.
“If the UPA wins this vote, it will be the victory of the UPA’s manoeuvrability, not of the FDI policy which has been opposed by a majority of parties in the House,” said AIADMK leader V. Maitreyan in his reply to a staunch defence of the policy by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma. Dr. Manmohan Singh, who is the Leader of the House, was present throughout the debate.
“The people will reply in the 2014 polls and I give a solemn assurance that the next government that comes to power will reverse this decision of the UPA,” the AIADMK member said amid thumping of desks by Opposition members.
Earlier, D. Raja of the CPI said the “sense of the House” was against the policy and the government should respect that.
Mr. Sharma was interrupted on several occasions as he opposed the motion but when he quoted from the report of a committee headed by JD(U) member N.K. Singh during the National Democratic Alliance regime to say it had recommended FDI in retail, there was uproar. For several minutes, Opposition members including from the Left demanded that Mr. Singh be allowed to reply.
Through the din, Mr. Singh said the committee had concluded that FDI should not be allowed in the country. At this, BJP members were on their feet, demanding that the Minister apologise, prompting Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien, who was in the chair, to adjourn the House for over an hour.
When it reassembled, Mr. Singh said the Minister should not have read out “selective portions” from his report. Mr. Sharma said he meant no disrespect and before he was interrupted he asked why the panel had changed its mind.
While agreeing with Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley that more could be done in the manufacturing sector, Mr. Sharma said it was proposed to create dedicated national investment zones to make India a “manufacturing hub.”