Govt and Oppn may have a deal: debate with voting only in LS
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At a meeting this morning, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath is said to have proposed to Leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley that a discussion on FDI in retail could be had in the Lok Sabha under a rule with voting provisions (Rule 184) if the opposition did not insist on a similar provision in the Rajya Sabha.
The government proposal came after both BJP leaders stuck to the stand that the FDI debate would have to be voted upon to get a sense of the House. They reminded Nath that Pranab Mukherjee, as then leader of the house, had assured that all stakeholders would be consulted before a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail was taken. The response of the BJP leaders to the face-saver solution was not negative, sources said.
Nath also attempted to extract an assurance from them on support over important legislations pending in Parliament. But both Swaraj and Jaitley remained non-commital, according to sources. Several reforms measures like the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill — critical for the government and on which the BJP does not have ideological differences with the UPA — are pending in Parliament.
The announcements for the FDI debate under voting or non-voting provisions in the two Houses are likely to be made by the respective presiding officers on Thursday, should all go well. "Presiding officers can take any decision they want in the interest of running Parliament," Nath said after his meeting with the Opposition leaders. Insisting that numbers were "not a worry" for the government, he said that the MPs are responsible enough to decide (on the issue).
"From day one I have said we have the numbers," he said when asked if the government became ready for a vote only after key ally DMK came on board. Nath, who met Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari on Tuesday, also met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar Wednesday morning. Nath maintained that the all-party meeting held on Monday showed that a larger number of parties favoured a discussion without voting and that they wanted Parliament to "function normally".
Swaraj told reporters that the government should not shy away from a vote as it would not fall even in the event of a defeat. "The government will not fall. Only FDI (decision) will have to go. If a majority of the members are against the decision, then the government should abide by it," the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha said. Besides the BJP, the Left parties, BJD, AIADMK and TDP have demanded a discussion on FDI followed by voting.
As far as numbers go, the UPA may not face any problems in the Lok Sabha given that it has the backing of 265 MPs from within and outside support of the Samajwadi Party (22 MPs) and BSP (21 MPs), that takes it comfortably above the half way mark of 273. However, the Rajya Sabha can be trickier as the UPA will have to get each of its 94 MPs as well as the 10 nominated and seven Independents, besides SP and BSP members, to vote for the government to avoid any last-minute embarrassment.
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