FDI debate in Rajya Sabha Thursday, government lacks numbers


New Delhi : The debate on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail is scheduled for Thursday in the Rajya Sabha. But the opposition has raised doubts about the debate being allowed fearing that the house will again be adjourned amidst din.

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The upper house of parliament, during the current winter session, saw peaceful proceedings only on Nov 30.

As the Lok Sabha debated the issue of FDI in retail Wednesday, the Rajya Sabha was adjourned after protests by Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members.

Opposition Bharatiya Janata Party has alleged that the government was using supporting parties to disrupt the house since it does not have the numbers there.

“The government is deliberately trying to create an atmosphere where the house cannot function. Even when the Lok Sabha is functioning normally, the Rajya Sabha is being stalled.

“I have a suspicion that the government is unsure which way the Rajya Sabha will vote. So it is not letting the house function. We doubt they will allow the debate on FDI tomorrow (Thursday),” Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.

In the Rajya Sabha, the government is likely to face a tough test in defeating an opposition-sponsored motion on FDI in retail since its numbers do not cross even the half-way mark despite the help of outside supporters.

The motion would be debated under rules 167-168, which entail voting after an “in principle” decision taken at a meeting of Rajya Sabha chairman and leaders of political parties.

The government needs the support of 123 members in the 244-member house to defeat the motion brought by the opposition.

The Congress with its allies has a strength of 89 in the upper house.

Outside support from Rashtriya Janata Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, Nagaland People’s Front, Bodoland People’s Front and Sikkim Democratic Front add another six members, taking the total to 96.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) with allies Janata Dal-United, Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal have 65 seats. The Left parties have 14 members and Trinamool Congress nine.

Also expected to vote for the motion are Biju Janata Dal (seven), Asom Gana Parishad (two), AIADMK (five) and Telugu Desam Party (five). The opposition tally thus goes to 107 — ahead of the government.

However, BSP (15) and SP (nine) have not made their respective positions clear, and have rather been forcing adjournments repeatedly in the upper house.

SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav had Thursday said if there was a vote on FDI in retail in the Rajya Sabha, the party will vote against it.

But party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav toned down his remarks some hours later and said a decision would be taken at the right opportunity.

BSP leader Mayawati, meanwhile, said her party’s stand would be decided at the time of voting.

Abstention by SP and BSP will also not help the government get past the half-way mark.

There are seven independent members besides 10 nominated members.