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BJP chooses Left over Mamata

New Delhi, Nov. 22: The BJP today joined the Left in insisting on a vote on the decision to allow foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, spurning Mamata Banerjee’s overtures for support to Trinamul’s no-confidence motion that fell through for lack of numbers.

The tactical decision to throw its lot in Parliament with the CPM-led front meant the BJP had set aside its “long-term” agenda of expanding the NDA by casting about for new allies like Trinamul.

The NDA and the Left, which together account for less than 200 MPs, do not have enough numbers in the 543-member House to vote out the government’s decision.

The Left also has the six-member Telugu Desam on its side, while the AIADMK is independently asking for a vote. The Biju Janata Dal is reportedly divided.

The Left’s on-off ally, Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party, is uncomfortable with the thought of even tangentially going along with any enterprise involving the BJP for fear of alienating its minority voters in Uttar Pradesh. Samajwadi sources said they were looking for a stratagem to distance themselves from the BJP and yet press for a vote by serving a notice on their own.

BJP sources said they did not go with Mamata’s Trinamul, which has 19 MPs, as they concluded she had not “done her homework well”.

“She did not try to get an accurate sense of the mood of the Opposition, she did not attempt to get the requisite 50 signatories to sign the motion. She even contacted our leaders through an emissary (Lok Sabha MP Kalyan Banerjee). That led us to feel that this was not a terribly serious venture and we should keep away from it,” a source said.

“Our assessment is that the UPA might become more vulnerable next year, if and when Mulayam Singh Yadav and (BSP boss) Mayawati feel it is impolitic to continue propping up the government. If we bring a no-confidence motion now and see it defeated, the rules stipulate that we cannot move another for the next six months.”

BJP Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley, Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav and CPM Rajya Sabha MP Sitaram Yechury today shared a platform at a meeting a Delhi traders’ association had called in protest against the FDI decision.

At the meeting, the BJP borrowed points explored by the CPM to fortify its case against commerce and industries minister Anand Sharma’s argument that executive decisions count not be voted upon in Parliament.

An editorial, slotted for the November 25 issue of CPM mouthpiece People’s Democracy, has punched holes in Sharma’s claim and recalled that on March 1, 2001, the Congress (then in the Opposition) had supported a CPM-sponsored motion, disapproving the proposed divestment of PSU major Balco by the then NDA government.

The motion, the editorial said, was admitted, discussed and voted under rule 184 that entails voting. It was voted out by 239 votes. Like the present-day Congress, the BJP had also initially insisted that executive decisions should not be voted on since divestment was an “approved” policy.

The article also pointed out that following a Supreme Court intervention in response to a PIL, the Reserve Bank had issued a notification, amending the regulations to permit FDI in retail. The court had also said there was no reason to fear the government would not place these amendments in Parliament.

The editorial recalled that at the time of the Balco divestment too, Delhi High Court had reposed its faith in Parliament while dealing with a petition.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh invited BJP Opposition leaders Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj and L.K. Advani to dinner tonight. BJP sources said the leaders would not reconsider their stand on a vote on retail FDI.