NEW DELHI, Dec 5 – The government today shook off the Opposition challenge on the FDI in retail issue by getting approval of the Lok Sabha as BSP and SP bailed it out by not participating in voting, reports PTI.
The victory of the Congress-led coalition by 253 to 218 votes after two days of heated debate was hailed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, but dubbed as moral defeat by the BJP and Trinamool Congress.
BSP and SP, key outside supporters with a total of 43 members in the Lower House, which were against the FDI in multi-brand retail, staged a tactical walkout bailing out the government.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who had moved the motion seeking immediate withdrawal of FDI decision, maintained that majority of the House was against FDI in retail which was reflected in speeches of leaders of different political parties.
Swaraj said going by speeches in the debate on FDI, leaders of various parties which extended support in favour of the motion and against bringing FDI in multi-brand retail had 282 votes and those against it had 224 votes.
She said 22 leaders of 18 parties participated in the debate on FDI in multi-brand retail of which 14 spoke in favour of the motion opposing the move.
Even UPA ally NCP leader Praful Patel, struck a discordant note by suggesting during the discussion that his party was not completely on board regarding implementation of FDI in retail.
He said the coordination committee of the Congress-NCP alliance in Maharashtra will assess its impact as it did not want the interest of small retailers to be hurt.
DMK, another constituent of the UPA, had yesterday expressed its opposition to the decision but said it would go along with the government as it did not want to let it down.
The Rajya Sabha, where the ruling alliance is not in majority, will take up the discussion under a rule that entails voting. The voting will take place on Friday.
This was after a gap of many years that an executive decision of the government was being put to vote in Parliament.
The House also rejected the motion seeking amendment to the rules notified by the Reserve Bank under Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) to enable FDI in multi-brand retail. While 254 voted in favour of the government, 224 were against.
Members of SP and BSP, with respective strength of 22 and 21, did not participate in the voting as they walked out alleging that interests of farmers and small retailers had been ignored.
“FDI policy that we have put in place has the approval of this House (Lok Sabha),” said Singh, who is a member of Rajya Sabha but was present during the voting in the Lower House.
Earlier, replying to the discussion, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma dismissed the Opposition charge that the move would hurt small traders and farmers and that the government has rushed the decision.
He said the decision was not taken overnight and deliberations were held with chief ministers and other stake holders like association of farmers, consumer organisations and representatives of the food processing industry.
Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj, who had moved the motion, maintained that majority of the House was against FDI in retail which was reflected in speeches of leaders of different political parties.