FDI debate in Lok Sabha Dec 4-5; Government confident of numbers

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Dec 3 (IANS) The UPA government Monday said it was confident of its numbers in the Lok Sabha, a day ahead of the crucial debate - with voting - in the house on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail and urged all parties to reject the "politics" behind the issue.

"We are confident of the numbers," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath told reporters. The debate will begin Dec 4 and the voting will take place Dec 5.

The minister described the debate as "pure politics". He also urged all the parties to reject the politics behind the motion sponsored by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

"I urge all parties to reject the politics of it and vote against the politics in the house," said Kamal Nath adding "the policy is very clear that the states have to decide on allowing any (FDI in retail) proposal".

The minister said the government would get the amendments to the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), required to facilitate FDI in multi-brand retail, passed in both houses, if needed.

"Passing it in one house is sufficient as per the rules. But if it is required, we will pass it in both the houses," Kamal Nath said.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury had recently said that FEMA amendments need to be passed in both houses and the government's failure to do so will be challenged in a court.

While the debate in the Lok Sabha will be held under Rule 184, in the Rajya Sabha it will be held under Rule 168 - both entailing vote, said government sources.

Though the government is now confident of sailing through in the lower house, it does not have the required numbers in the upper house.

The role of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which support the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government from outside, would be crucial in the Rajya Sabha, sources said.

SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav surprised everyone last week by saying that the party would oppose FDI in multi-brand retail in the Rajya Sabha.

"If there is a vote on FDI in Rajya Sabha, we will vote against it. We will not let it pass," Yadav said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla said the government was in touch with both the SP and the BSP over the issue and expressed hope that the two parties would vote in favour of FDI in retail.

"We are in touch with both the SP and the BSP. We hope they will vote in favour of FDI in retail," said Shukla.

Samajwadi Party is irked over what it feels is the UPA's support for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions -- an idea backed by its archrival, the BSP.

"We are committed to the bill for reservation for Dalits and tribals in job promotions," said Kamal Nath.

Of the total 245 members in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA has a numerical strength of 90. With 27 outside supporters from the BSP, SP, Lok Janshakti Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the government tally stands at 117 as against the magical 123-figure for majority.

The opposition claims the support of 110 members. Besides, there are seven independents, five members from smaller parties and 10 nominated.

The Bharatiya Janata Party and CPI-M had submitted separate notices for a debate with a voting provision.

The CPI-M also wants a vote on amendments to FEMA, tabled in the Lok Sabha Friday.

Both houses of parliament have seen repeated disruptions on the issue since the winter session began Nov 22.