FDI debate in Rajya Sabha: BSP will vote in favour of government, says Mayawati

FDI debate in Rajya Sabha: BSP will vote in favour of government, says Mayawati
New Delhi:  The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has decided to vote in favour of the government during the voting on allowing foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail in the Rajya Sabha tomorrow. BSP chief Mayawati announced this during the debate today. "The policy is good but is that it is not compulsory for all states. We have also considered whether to stand with communal forces. There can be disruption in the coming days. Important bills are pending, the government will get the excuse to escape important issues. That's why looking at plus points, the BSP will vote in favour of the government," Mayawati said.

The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief earlier used her speech in the Rajya Sabha today to attack the BJP for criticising her party's walkout in the Lok Sabha yesterday.

Ms Mayawati's party walked out of the Lok Sabha before it voted yesterday, helping the government that she gives external support to win the vote, prompting the BJP's Sushma Swaraj to say, "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."

Mayawati said that remark was ghatiya causing BJP benches in the Rajya Sabha to protest angrily. "We are often accused of being under pressure from CBI. This has become fashionable for the Opposition," she said. The BSP chief said that she condemns the language used by Ms Swaraj against her party. The BSP leader also said that the BJP used CBI to frame her in the Taj Corridor case. BJP members protested and said the language used by Mayawati was unparliamentary. The House was then had to be adjourned for 10 minutes.

The Rajya Sabha has begun debating the government's decision to allow foreign supermarkets to set up shop in India. With help from its allies, the BSP and Samajwadi Party, the Manmohan Singh government won a vote on its big policy decision in the Lok Sabha yesterday, but is expected to find the Rajya Sabha vote much more difficult to win.

During the debate, BJP leader Arun Jaitley slammed the government saying, "When you are 18 short of majority, then you cannot run the government as you please. You cannot touch the 272 mark in Lok Sabha - you will need support and help. And whenever you need help, you have to compromise and pay a price. The country is worried that with regards to investigative agencies and the government's work practices - we have seen the compromises for the past four years. After yesterday's vote, those worries have gone up. After that figure you are a lame duck government, and you are dependent on support which is costly."

V Maitreyan of the AIADMK initiated the debate in the Rajya Sabha at noon today, speaking in Tamil, English and Hindi to accuse the government of going back on its promise in Parliament that it would allow foreign direct investment or FDI in multi-brand retail only after consulting all political parties. Before House sat today, the AIADMK leader said, "If the House is allowed to function, we have the majority in House. Whatever has happened in the Lok Sabha , the government does not have the numbers here."

The Upper House will vote tomorrow on the issue, if, says the Opposition, the government's allies allow the House to function.

The Manmohan Singh government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. In the Lok Sabha, a walkout by the BSP and the Samajwadi Party helped it sail through the vote. In the Upper House, it will require more than just abstention from the two UP parties, which provide the government with external support.

For the last few days, the BSP and SP have disrupted the Rajya Sabha repeatedly; the BSP seeking that a bill to give reservation to Scheduled Castes and Tribes in government job promotions be brought in the House and passed immediately and the SP protesting against any move to do that. The opposition alleges that this is their way of helping the government avoid a vote that it is likely to lose in the Rajya Sabha.

The Left's D Raja too said, "We will have to wait and see. The apprehension is that the UPA parties are being used to disrupt the House since the Government doesn't have the numbers. Let's us see how it goes.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath sought to allay all such fears, saying yesterday that, "The debate in Rajya Sabha will start tomorrow.  Voting will be on Friday. I am absolutely certain of it. I want to dispel any fears of Mr Jaitley's that in anyway we will try and stall it. We won't stall it but will actually win the vote. While the numbers are very thin, I'm sure we are going to win this vote, may be with a very small margin, but I'm confident we are going to win this vote."

Some of that confidence could stem from signals from the BSP. Sources in that party say that BSP chief Mayawati, who helped the government win in the Lok Sabha yesterday by not voting, could go a step further in the Rajya Sabha and bail out the government by voting for FDI. During the Lok Sabha debate the BSP asked the government not to rush through with FDI in multi-brand retail since there were fears that small retailers and farmers would be adversely affected, but party sources say she does not have a rigid stand on FDI in retail and is looking more at political expediency while deciding how to vote on the issue. Ms Mayawati has 15 crucial MPs in the 244-seat Rajya Sabha and could play a decisive role in who wins.

Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party has nine Rajya Sabha MPs, enough to make a difference in House where both sides are scrambling for every vote. The SP's Naresh Aggarwal  said today the SP was likely to abstain from voting in the Upper House too. Unlike the BSP, which has been laregly non-committal, Mr Yadav has been a vociferous opponent of  FDI in multi-brand retail and he made a strong speech in the Lok Sabha against it.

The government has called its Lok Sabha win a victory of pragmatism over politics. The opposition, however, has said that it was a technical victory but a moral defeat.

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