Disruptions marked the second day of the Winter Session of Parliament on Friday as the government and the opposition stuck to their guns on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. The Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha were adjourned for the second day in a row, till Monday.
Both the Houses were first adjourned till noon amid shogan-shouting by BJP, CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress members. The chaos continued even after the Houses reassembled.
The Lok Sabha slipped into chaos as soon as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh finished introducing his new Cabinet ministers. "Reverse the decision to allow FDI in retail," shouted opposition MPs, insisting on a debate and voting on the issue.
Speaker Meira Kumar tried to have the Well of the House, where Trinamool Congress members had gathered to protest, cleared. "I will allow you to speak. Go back," she told the unrelenting MPs. BJP members demanded a discussion and the Left MPs waved booklets on FDI.
Rajya Sabha was first adjourned till noon and then till 2.30 pm. BJP members, led by M Venkaiah Naidu, raised the FDI issue. They displayed a newspaper report that said Bharti Walmart had suspended its chief financial officer as it investigates alleged violations of US anti-bribery laws.
BSP chief Mayawati demanded a bill to provide reservation to Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in promotions in government jobs. When the House reassembled at 2.30 pm, MPs were up on their feet once again, forcing adjournment for the rest of the day.
The first day of the Winter Session had been a washout with no business being conducted. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a dinner meeting with top BJP leaders last night, but failed to break the deadlock.
At the dinner, the BJP, sources said, was adamant that the only way it will allow Parliament to function without disruption is if the government agrees to discuss its major policy decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail under Rule 184, which entails a vote. The government was equally adamant that it was an executive decision that does not need Parliament's approval, and while it is ready to discuss the issue, it does not want a vote.
To that the BJP reminded the government that it had promised last December, in both Houses, that all stakeholders, including political parties, would be consulted before a decision was taken on FDI.
Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh said the BJP's campaign against FDI in retail would have no bearing on the UPA government's policy decision. "Even if the resolution against FDI is passed it would neither bring down the government nor force the government to withdraw its policy on FDI," he tweeted. Read Digvijaya's tweet
"The BJP doesn't support no-confidence motion which could have brought down the government through voting but insists on a motion on FDI with voting," the Congress leader tweeted, referring to the Trinamool Congress's bid to push a no-confidence motion in Parliament on Thursday that failed to get the backing of other opposition parties.
Last night's dinner meeting with the Prime Minister was attended by the BJP's parliamentary party chief LK Advani, Leader of the Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley. Dr Singh was aided by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Finance Minister P Chidambaram.
Dr Singh has held a series of dinners and one lunch with allies and parties that give him external support to consolidate the UPA's position ahead of the Winter Session.
The first day of the Winter Session was a washout, with a series of adjournments before both Houses being adjourned for the day without transacting any business. The highlight was the Trinamool Congress's failed attempt to move a no-confidence motion against the government. The party, which is opposed to FDI in retail, could not muster the support of 50 MPs to push the motion through.(With inputs from agencies)