Edited by Prasad Sanyal | Updated: September 21, 2012 17:52 IST
After withdrawing support, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said that it will not ask for a trust vote, but would like to "vote on FDI". Since FDI in retail is a cabinet decision and not a legislation passed in Parliament, it can't be voted on. The TMC is more likely looking of a "sense of the House" where there is no vote, but makes public the positions of parties on an issue. The government is not threatened by a sense of the House motion but can embarrass it politically. TMC chief Mamata Banerjee has several times referred to the fact that in the winter session of Parliament in 2011, then-finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had said that FDI in retail will wait till there is consenus.
Less than half an hour earlier, TMC's six ministers in government resigned to the Prime Minister. Their resignation and the the TMC's withdrawal of support are in protest against the government's decision to open up the retail sector to foreign companies, increase the price of diesel and cap the number of subsidised LPG cylinders for households. It was a short, 3 minutes meeting, in which the PM is understood to have thanked them for their work and expressed his sadness that they were quitting. The TMC leaders explained to him their party's position. (Read: Trinamool's letter to the President)
Trinamool's withdrawal of support now puts the UPA in a minority in Lok Sabha. But the government is not in any imminent danger because it has the external support of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, who have 43 MPs between them. Mr Yadav confirmed this morning that he will continue to prop up the UPA. Neither Mayawati nor Mr Yadav participate in the government.
Along with the Mulayam Singh Yadav's and Mayawati's MPs, and the support of smaller players like Lalu Prasad Yadav, the UPA has 310 MPs in its favour. It needs 272 to survive. With this majority, there is no need for a trust vote, said senior ministers Salman Khurshid and Pawan Kumar Bansal. Parliament is not currently in session.
The PM will explain his economic policies in a TV speech at 8 pm tonight. He is expected to stress the urgent need for other big-bang reforms to revive the sluggish economy. His minister in the PMO, V Narayanswamy said he would "clarify since there was of campaign and misinformation."
Mr Narayanswamy promised that the government would take allies on board before taking crucial decisions and said it would push first with reforms that it could "implement without much difficulty." While Mulayam Singh Yadav has reiterated support, he has said he will continue to protest against the new reforms announced last week. Like the BJP and Ms Banerjee, Mr Yadav and Mayawati are opposed to the government's decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment or FDI in multi-brand retail.
"There is nothing to stop the BJP from seeking a confidence vote," taunted Mr Bansal after Mr Yadav ended days of suspense for the government by announcing that he will remain with the UPA. Mr Yadav said though he is not happy with the government's policies, he is determined to keep the "communal forces" of the BJP at bay. Neither Mr Yadav nor Ms Mayawati wants to make a move that would bring down the UPA and provoke early elections.
Mr Yadav wants time to build support for a Third Front in which he will play a leading role with Left and other parties. Mayawati was crushed in the recent UP elections, and her party was replaced by Mr Yadav's in government. She wants to focus on rebuilding her image and support base.The main opposition party, the BJP, does not want to call for a trust vote because the government has the numbers.
The BJP's partner, Sharad Yadav, said today, "We didn't want to bring down the government," adding that the BJP and his Janata Dal United want a special session of Parliament to be called so that the government can explain why it has implemented reforms in retail after earlier promising to seek consensus on the contentious policy.
Ms Banerjee has attacked the UPA for notifying its FDI policies yesterday. On Facebook last night, she posted "Is it ethical, moral and democratic for a minority government to issue government order forcibly and hurriedly when massive protests against it are taking place across the country?" The Trinamool has sought permission from the Delhi Police to demonstrate at Jantar Mantra on September 30 against the recent reforms.
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