FDI storm to hit UPA today

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As Parliament’s Winter Session commences today, both the government and the Opposition remained firm on their positions on FDI in multi-brand retail, signalling a hot winter politically. While the government declared its readiness to face a no-confidence motion that the Trinamul Congress has said it will move, it does not want to face a floor test on FDI due to a division in UPA and supporting parties’ ranks.

The government will agree to a floor test only if it can convince the DMK, its ally, as well as supporting parties like the BSP and Samajwadi Party to back it on this issue.

While the Opposition parties still appear divided on both the no-confidence motion and a floor test on FDI, their united stand against retail FDI is worrying the UPA’s floor managers. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has invited top leaders of the BJP to dinner on Thursday in a bid to seek their support on retail FDI to ensure a smooth Winter Session.

At the floor leaders’ meeting called on Wednesday by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Opposition leaders felt the government was adamant on not allowing a discussion under Rule 184, that entails voting.

“We want the House to run, we wish to cooperate... there are several issues waiting to be discussed. But our precondition is that the issue on which an assurance was given to the House be taken up first under a rule that entails voting,” Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj told reporters.

Here is what lies ahead:

No-confidence move by Trinamul Congress, but not many takers. If the TMC fails to garner support of 50 MPs, the no-trust will not see the light of the day.

FDI will remain the main bone of contention. BJP and Left are likely to move a discussion under Rule 184 that entails voting. The SP and BSP will find it embarrassing to vote with the government as they have been consistently voicing their opposition to FDI in retail. The DMK remains ambivalent. The government will try to stall voting arguing that an executive order need not be put for voting and there is no precedent to this effect.

If voting takes place and if the government is defeated, nothing will happen, but it will be a major embarrassment for the Manmohan Singh government.

CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta Wednesday indicated that the House may not be functional initially, as the government was reluctant to accept its demand on voting.

Both the BJP and the CPI-M have given notices on the FDI issue under Rule 184, which entails voting.

The BJP, supported by the trader community, is opposed to FDI, though it did not shy away from the idea during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule in 1998-2004.

The 16 working days session is loaded with a heavy agenda of 35 bills -- 25 listed for consideration and passing and 10 for introduction. The government hopes it would be able to pass important bills, especially those related to economic reforms.

Among the important bills being pushed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram are amendments to the Insurance Laws Bill to raise the foreign equity cap in insurance to 49 per cent from the present 26 percent, the Banking Regulation Amendment Bill and the Direct Taxes Code Bill.

The month-long Monsoon Session (Aug 8-Sep 7) was washed out after the BJP did not allow parliament to function over faulty coal block allocations, demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation.

The government could get only six bills introduced and six passed by either house of parliament in the monsoon session, which lost 13 of 20 working days to disruption.

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