The government will have to take a vote in the Lok Sabha on its politically contentious decision to allow Foreign Direct Investment or FDI in retail.
The Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Meira Kumar, has agreed to the opposition's demand for a debate followed by a vote, which will take place most likely early next week.
The opposition wants a vote in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House too. Chairman Hamid Ansari has called an all-party meeting today to discuss the matter. "We want parliament to function under any circumstances and I have told the Rajya Sabha chairman that whatever decision he takes is acceptable for us including voting,'" said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath. (Track live updates here)
The vote in the Lok Sabha is non-binding on the government, but winning it will help establish the authority Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, whose government was reduced to a minority in September after he allowed 51% foreign investment in multi-brand retail.
Since the winter session began on November 22, Parliament has been paralysed.The opposition had rejected the government's suggestion for a debate that would not culminate in a vote. There are 16 days of Parliament left in this session, and critical legislation is pending.
The Prime Minister said on Tuesday that the government is confident that it has the numbers to back one of its flagship economic reforms.
That is true for the Lok Sabha, where the government's allies have pledged their support. But the government wants to avoid a vote in the upper house or Rajya Sabha, where it is in a minority. There, the government will be dependent on Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati, who are not members of the ruling coalition but lend external support. While Mayawati has hinted she will support the government in a vote, Mr Yadav has on record opposed FDI in retail.
The government's decision to allow foreign retailers into India was seen by economists and business leaders as a long overdue step forward in liberalising the economy. But critics say it will destroy millions of jobs and jeopardises the livelihoods of mom-and-pop store owners.