That out of the way, the government can now hunker down to battle the opposition on the Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail issue. By 2 pm on day 1 of the winter session of parliament, a belligerent opposition had ensured that both Houses were adjourned for the day.
The BJP-led NDA and the Left want a discussion on FDI in retail under a rule that allows voting. The government says it is ready to debate its policy decision but does not want a vote. Neither side is budging from its position; an all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar yesterday failed to break the deadlock.
Dr Singh will extend his dinner diplomacy tonight; he hosts top leaders of the BJP and chief on his agenda is getting an assurance that the Winter Session will see smooth functioning. He has also called an all-party meeting on Monday to try and break the FDI logjam. (PM's dinner diplomacy continues)
As he arrived at Parliament House this morning, Dr Singh said there was a "very heavy legislative agenda during the Winter Session. I seek cooperation from my colleagues in the House." The government has listed 25 Bills for the session, including important ones like pension reforms, hike in FDI in the insurance sector and the Lokpal Bill among others. (Full text of the Prime Minister's statement)
On the first day, it was not just the NDA or the Left parties up on their feet. The Trinamool shouted "no-confidence", the Shiv Sena demanded that their leader Bal Thackeray, who died last weekend, be duly honoured, the BSP raised the issue of quota in promotions and the Samajwadi Party condemned the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders. (Watch: Highlights from Day 1 of the winter session)
When the Lok Sabha reconvened after the first adjournment, the Speaker asked Trinamool leader Sudip Bandopadhyay to propose the party's No Confidence Motion; only the 18 other MPs of his party and three of the Biju Janata Dal's 14 MPs - the rest were not in House - stood in support. He needed at least 50 MPs for the motion to be accepted. The Speaker disallowed the motion and it was over in a matter of minutes.
Immediately after, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj demanded that the house debate the issue of FDI in retail under Rule 184, which entails voting. Amid much chaos, the Lok Sabha was adjourned once again.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said at a public meeting in New Delhi later in the afternoon, "I do not know under what pressure the government is under that it doesn't want a vote on FDI." Another senior leader of the BJP, Venkaiah Naidu quipped, "Why are they (the government) running away?"
Outside Parliament, all parties made their stands clear, except Mayawati's BSP which remains ambiguous."It is up to the house to decide on what they want discussion. After that our party will make its stand clear. It is for Centre to decide, for the Speaker to decide as to under which rule the discussion should take place," Ms Mayawati said.
The Left has already said it too wants debate and vote on FDI in retail. The BJP's partner Janata Dal (United) wants a discussion and it wants Parliament to function; it is not particular that it be voted on.
The Samajwadi Party, which, like Mayawati, extends crucial external support to the Manmohan Singh government, said it opposed FDI in retail and wanted a discussion - the rule under which it was debated was the Speaker's prerogative, said party leader Ram Gopal Yadav.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath today said, "Opposition can't decide date and time of discussions in Parliament. We are ready to discuss FDI with BJP and others. The Parliamentary session should be carried out peacefully."