“Yes, we are confident of numbers,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said.
His remarks came after the UPA coordination committee meeting at which all constituents of the ruling coalition backed the government on the issue. “The UPA is united. Everybody is together. We stand by the government,” senior NCP leader Praful Patel told reporters.
While discussions under a rule requiring voting may not be an embarrassment to the government now, sources confirmed that it would prefer discussions under rules not entailing voting so as not to set a wrong precedent of Parliament voting on an executive decision. It also wants to avoid any chance of public dissension on the crucial issue.
While the DMK said it was backing the government with “bitterness” and to keep the BJP at bay, it puts the government in a comfortable position should the issue be discussed under Rule 184, entailing voting. Parliament was adjourned without conducting any business for the fourth day on Tuesday as the BJP and Left stuck to their position seeking a vote on the issue.
The UPA meeting held in the afternoon endorsed the government’s stand, with the official position being that it should be left to the Speaker to take a call on whether to allow discussion under Rule 184 or 193 that doesn’t entail voting.
“The UPA is fully united on any decision of the Speaker and government... all constituents are firmly behind the government,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said. He added that he would meet the Speaker soon to convey the sense of Monday’s all-party meeting, where too a majority was in favour of the Speaker deciding the rule for the discussion.
In a statement issued Tuesday morning, DMK chief M Karunanidhi said the party had decided to support the government despite “the bitterness and a thousand differences” of opinion on opening up of multi-brand retail to FDI.
If something happens to the UPA government, it will only be beneficial to the BJP, Karunanidhi explained. “We have to think of mosque demolitions, kar sevas, anti-minority measures and similar such communal atrocities if the BJP or a communal government it supports assumes power at the Centre,” he said.
He also sought to underline that a decision on whether to implement FDI in multi-brand retail had been left to the states concerned.
The UPA meeting was attended by, among others, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi, Defence Minister A K Antony, RLD’s Ajit Singh, DMK’s T R Baalu, NCP’s Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and Finanace Minister P Chidambaram.