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Upper House, not LS, worries govt
- Maya sends positive signal on FDI

New Delhi, Dec. 3: A day before the Lok Sabha takes up the debate on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, Congress managers were agonising over the prospects in the Rajya Sabha as if victory in the lower House was a foregone conclusion.

“It indeed is,” a senior government manager said, claiming that neither the Samajwadi Party nor the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) would vote against the Centre despite their staunch opposition to the FDI decision.

The logic that has apparently won over both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati rests on the premise that empowers the states to reject the policy within their borders.

Clubbed with the FDI decision, for debate and vote under Rule 184, will be the Fema amendments necessary for the change in FDI policy. Some MPs, including Trinamul’s Saugata Roy, have moved amendments to the notification on the Fema changes.

The Lok Sabha will start the debate tomorrow and vote on Wednesday, while the upper House will debate and vote on Thursday and Friday.

Parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath oozed confidence and aggression, appealing to all the members to defeat the “politics” behind the move to have a vote on an executive decision.

The government, anyway, has stressed that the FDI policy is “cast in stone” and would not be reversed even if it loses the vote in either House.

For all its worries about the outcome in the Rajya Sabha, where the UPA is in a minority, and its dependence on the heartland twins in the Lok Sabha, the Congress was today concentrating on winning the debate.

Party MPs were summoned to a special session, where commerce minister Anand Sharma and telecom minister Kapil Sibal made a detailed presentation on the retail sector and the global experience with FDI.

The two ministers separately briefed the speakers who will participate in tomorrow’s debate. Sibal will be the main speaker and Sharma will reply to the debate, while Sandeep Dikshit will be among the participants.

The government’s confidence received a boost today with Mayawati laying greater stress on restricting the communal forces than on the alleged perils of FDI in retail.

The BSP chief told a news conference the government’s FDI decision could seriously harm small traders, farmers and the economy. But she would not say which way her MPs would vote, claiming the decision would be taken inside the House.

“Our party is opposed to the policy but we have to take everything into consideration while deciding what our role would be if there is voting in Parliament,” she said.

“We have to listen to the government’s reply. We have to consider whether a wrong message would go out if we vote along with the BJP.”

By raising the issue of communalism, she appeared to be keeping a door open to help the government.

The results of the Centre’s constant engagement with Mayawati showed as she sought to present both the dark and bright sides of the FDI decision.

She cited how the government had left it to the states to decide whether they wanted FDI in multi-brand retail in their state or not. “It is a big plus. It is not being thrust on the states.”

Mayawati said the matter had come up when she was chief minister, and she had firmly ruled out the retail giants’ entry into Uttar Pradesh.

She hinted the Centre could clarify some of the issues she had raised about the negative effects of FDI in retail. So, her party would take the call on how to vote only after listening to the Centre’s reply on Wednesday.

“We can expect a positive response from the government over the concerns raised by us,” she said.

The Trinamul Congress, which has 19 Lok Sabha MPs, hinted at voting against the government but did not commit anything, saying Mamata Banerjee would take the final decision on Wednesday.

Some party MPs counted the dangers of voting with the BJP and the Left but indicated their dilemma, acknowledging they could not be seen aiding the government, either.