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Left stirs FDI pot with vote notice
- DMK keeps ‘suspense’, BJP bides time

New Delhi, Nov. 14: The CPM today submitted notices in both Houses of Parliament for a discussion and vote on the decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, getting off the blocks first in an apparent move to upstage rival Trinamul.

Main Opposition BJP, too, reaffirmed its stand against the Centre’s decision but was ambiguous on whether it would press for a vote in the House.

A defeat, however, would not lead to the government’s fall as the issue — an executive order that did not need Parliament’s approval — does not involve a money bill. But it would be a huge embarrassment for the ruling UPA.

The CPM, which also appealed for support from across the political spectrum to oppose the “anti-people” move, submitted the notices under rules 168 and 184, which both entail voting.

“We gave the notices today and, apart from the four parties who have already opposed FDI in retail along with us, we appeal to all the political parties to oppose this anti-people measure,” the party’s leader in the Rajya Sabha, Sitaram Yechury, said.

Yechury’s Lok Sabha colleague Basudeb Acharia sent the notice under rule 184 in the lower House.

While parties like the Samajwadi, TDP, JD(S) and the BJD have already backed the Left on the issue, sources said the CPM wanted to steal a march over Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamul, which pulled out of the UPA over some of the Centre’s recent economic decisions.

The party has, however, not given any notices so far, though Mamata had threatened a no-confidence motion against the government.

Unlike Trinamul, the Left has shied away from talking of a no-confidence motion as it is not keen on early elections. Moving a confidence motion in the Lok Sabha would have been easier as it requires the support of just 50 members, whereas it is the government or the Speaker’s prerogative to accept discussions under a clause that entails voting.

There have been several instances when the Opposition had pressed for discussions under such a clause but the government refused.

The government would, however, be cornered if the demand for a discussion and vote generated widespread support in the House.

As the numbers stand now, the government has the support of nearly 300 MPs, including 18 of crucial ally DMK.

But without the BSP’s 21 members, the UPA’s Lok Sabha strength will fall to 275, uncomfortably close to the majority mark of 271. Minus the Samajwadi’s 22 members as well, the government will be reduced to a minority.

In Chennai, DMK chief Karunanidhi said Tamil Nadu’s “small and medium traders were apprehensive that retail FDI will adversely affect them”.

Karunanidhi, however, raised the political temperature, saying his party would like to keep its stand a “suspense”.

“I have written the script for more than 100 films,” PTI quoted him as saying. “A film would be successful only if it has suspense.”

The Samajwadi, too, sources said, was “unlikely” to recant its stance opposing the move, but it was unclear if party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav would go ahead and embarrass the government.

The BJP restated its opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail but party sources said they would “closely assess” what non-BJP, non-Congress parties do.

Chief spokesperson and deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha Ravi Shankar Prasad said the party would evolve a joint strategy with other NDA constituents before the winter session begins on November 22.

The party sources said they would wait and see what entities like the BJD and the TDP did in case there was a Left-sponsored adjournment motion.

The sources said the BJP was “unsure” if the BJD, TDP and the AIADMK — loosely aligned with the Left — would actually oppose a step that was regarded as a “milestone” in the economic reforms path and risk alienating opinion-makers.

Some BJP sources were privately uncomfortable with the idea of opposing the decision. “India is too vast to have space for only one kind of a business model. The Tescos and WalMarts will be able to co-exist with the neighbourhood kirana shops because there are all kinds of economic segments to cater to,” one of the sources conceded.

The Congress and the government played down the developments. I&B minister Manish Tewari said the winter session “has not begun as yet”.

“We’ll cross the bridge when we come to itů the floor leaders are yet to meet. The presiding officers of both the Houses have their own role to play, so let’s leave it at that,” the Congress leader said.