The focus has immediately shifted to the Rajya Sabha, which will vote on Friday after a two-day debate beginning Thursday. The government is in a minority in the Upper House and has been scrambling for numbers. But Congress president Sonia Gandhi said she was happy with the Lok Sabha win and not worried about the Rajya Sabha vote.
One reason for that could be the BSP. Sources in Mayawati's party has said that she could go a step further in the Rajya Sabha and bail out the government by voting for FDI. If the BSP's 15 Rajya Sabha MPs vote against the opposition's motion, it will remarkably improve the government chances of winning in the 244-seat house. Especially, if Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party abstains in that House too. (Read: Why Mayawati's BSP might bail out the government in Rajya Sabha)
In the Lok Sabha on Wednesday, the BSP and SP both not voting in the 545-seat house brought the majority mark down from 273 to 251; and 253 MPs voting for FDI was enough to defeat the BJP. Soon after, the Trinamool Congress' motion against the government's move to make five critical changes in the FEMA, necessary to operationalise FDI in multibrand retail, single-brand retail and in aviation - saw 478 MPs vote; 254 voted against the motion and 224 MPs supported it. (Track latest developments)
While the government had argued that allowing 51 per cent FDI in retail was an executive decision that did not need Parliament's nod, the FEMA amendments constitutionally require the approval of both Houses of Parliament. The government had ensured that opposition motions against both were listed together in the Lok Sabha so that they could be approved in one go. The BJP and other opposition parties had sought on Tuesday that FDI in retail and the FEMA amendments be discussed separately, but the Speaker allowed them to be debated together.
After walking out in the Lok Sabha, Mulayam Singh Yadav, who made a strong speech on Tuesday opposing FDI in retail and appealing to the Congress-led UPA to reconsider its decision, explained, "We walked out because the government has insulted farmers and small shops." The government will be putting more in store by what his brother Ram Gopal Yadav said on Wednesday morning: "Whatever we will decide, the decision will be the same in both Houses."
Closing the debate, the BJP's Sushma Swaraj, who moved the motion against FDI in retail with a fiery speech on Tuesday, soundly criticised Mulayam Singh Yadav for not walking his talk. "How vociferously Mulayam ji had opposed FDI...if he had voted with us, FDI would not have been implemented," she said. On the BSP's walkout she said, "It is not a question of BJP, this is not a communal issue. But the problem is the issue has now become FDI vs CBI...When the BSP wants support, they come to us and then we aren't communal. This dichotomy won't work." Ms Swaraj was referring to Ms Mayawati's recent comment that keeping "communal forces" at bay was a priority. (Read: Political victory but moral loss for Govt, says Sushma Swaraj) The BJP and the BSP have in the past been allies in Uttar Pradesh where they had joined hands to form government years ago.
The BJP called the vote a political victory but a moral loss for the government. In the Rajya Sabha it has accused the government of using its allies like the BSP and SP to disrupt House so that it can avoid a vote as it is in a minority. (Read: Govt staging disruptions in Rajya Sabha, says BJP)
The gist of the government's argument is - why is the BJP opposing FDI in retail when they themselves had favoured it when the NDA was in power? And also that each state can decide whether to implement it or not. Union minister Anand Sharma said that on Wednesday, the government's first speaker Kapil Sibal said the same thing on Tuesday. The government has also sought to allay fears that small retailers and farmers will be hit by the entry of big supermarket chains like Walmart.
The BJP-led opposition has argued through two days that the government's policy is anti-people. Sharad Yadav of the JD(U) ripped into the Congress-led UPA government warning that "the future generations will not pardon us...you should reconsider the decision." Mr Yadav also sought to score political points, taking on Mr Sibal for saying on Tuesday that while the government looked beyond the opposition benches in the House at the country's welfare, the opposition was merely eyeing the treasury benches. "Yes", said Mr Yadav, "we want to sit there (treasury benches) but don't you want the same...but we don't want to sit there through illegitimate ways."
Mamata Banerjee, who severed ties with the UPA over FDI earlier this year, said it has been proven that UPA 2 is a minority government. "It is a shame! The mandate today proves that the UPA-II is a minority Government. As against the majority figure of 271, based on the total strength of the House, the support was only 253, despite all attempts made by the selfish people. This Government has lost its credibility. They must take fresh verdict from the people," she wrote on her Facebook page.