Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) is said to be leaning towards voting in favour of Foreign Direct Investment or FDI in multi-brand retail in the Rajya Sabha, to save the day for the Manmohan Singh government, which it supports externally and which is scrambling to find numbers in the upper house, where it is in a minority.
If Mayawati's 15 Rajya Sabha MPs vote on the side of the UPA government, the latter will be in a position to scrape through the halfway mark, especially if its other external ally Mulayam Singh Yadav's nine Samajwadi Party MPs abstain from voting. If that happens, the half-way mark in the 244-member House will come down from 123 to 119. Without the BSP, 104 Rajya Sabha MPs support FDI in retail. The Rajya Sabha will discuss and vote on the Opposition's motion against the government's major reform policy on Thursday and on Friday.
BSP sources said their party chief was still wary of the effects of FDI in multi-brand retail, but did not have a rigid stand on it right now and so could well choose political expediency. She has reportedly told party MPs that she is not ready to spoil ties with the Congress, which leads the UPA government at the Centre.
In a very fluid political situation, with the major parties like the Congress and the BJP fighting big internal battles, Mayawati reportedly sees a good chance of being an important part of government formation after the 2014 general elections and the Congress as a likely electoral partner.
The BSP today, along with the Samajwadi Party, which provide external support to the Manmohan Singh government, helped it defeat the BJP motion by walking out before the House voted. With the BSP and SP both not voting in the 545-seat Lok Sabha, the majority mark had come down from 273 to 251; 253 MPs voted for FDI.
The BJP has alleged that both the BSP and the SP have been helping the government they support already, by not allowing the Rajya Sabha to function. He asked the Prime Minister, who is also the leader of the house to clarify, saying "Everyday, members from the ruling side and supporting parties go to the well of the House. We have a lurking suspicion that government is not sure which way the vote will go in Rajya Sabha. We want the Leader of the House to clearly spell out the intention of the government."
Earlier this week, Ms Mayawati had reportedly linked her support on FDI to the condition that the quota bill to be passed before the vote on the retail reform is held. But she had also said that keeping "communal forces," or the BJP at bay was a priority. The government had listed the quota bill in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday but House was adjourned. The SP opposes quota in government job promotions.
Today, Mayawati stalled Question Hour in the Rajya Sabha demanding construction of a memorial for Bhimrao Ambedkar in Mumbai.