New Delhi: In a major
boost to the ruling UPA, ally Bahujan Samaj Party Thursday assured
its support to the government on the FDI issue, giving it more
numbers during voting in the upper house, where it lacks a
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance hopes that with BSP's
15 members now in its kitty, it would be able to persuade
Samajwadi Party, with nine MPs, to abstain from voting - as it did
in the Lok Sabha Wednesday. The two regional parties prop the UPA
The government Wednesday won the vote on allowing 51 percent
foreign investment in multi-brand retail in the lower house after
the BSP and SP walked out just ahead of the voting.
Speaking on the debate in the Rajya Sabha, BSP chief Mayawati
said: "We will support the government tomorrow (Friday)," bringing
much relief to the Congress, which had been involved in hectic
back channel negotiations to muster the numbers.
Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, making a strong case for FDI, said it
was a "national imperative". "There are moments in the life of a
nation when certain decisions have to be taken at a particular
period of time. We should rise above partisan politics. This
policy will determine the future of India."
The opposition led a strong attack on the Manmohan Singh-led
government's move to usher in economic reforms by allowing foreign
multi nationals like Wal-Mart and Tesco.
BJP leader and Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun
Jaitley said bringing in FDI would create "sales boys and sales
girls". Hitting out against the UPA's Lok Sabha win, he said the
figure of 254 "can't be seen as a win. When you are 18 short of
majority, you cannot run the government as you please. After that
Lok Sabha figure, you are a lame duck government."
Friday's voting is likely to see a close fight between the UPA and
the BJP-led opposition.
In the 244-member house, the halfway mark is 123. The UPA strength
is 89. With the BSP's 15 members, its numbers will climb to 104.
With the support of smaller parties, including Rashtriya Janata
Dal, it will get six more votes, taking the tally to 110.
If the SP with its nine members walks out, or abstains from
voting, the strength of members present and voting in the house
will come down to 235. The halfway mark will then be 118.
On the other hand, the BJP and its main allies including Janata
Dal-United, together have 65 votes. With the Left's 14 members,
and the Trinamool Congress' nine siding with it, the number will
Other parties against FDI include: Biju Janata Dal (7), Asom Gana
Parishad (2), AIADMK (5), and Telugu Desam Party (5), which
together take the opposition tally to 107 -- just three short of
the government tally of 110.
Of the 10 nominated members, three including cricketer Sachin
Tendulkar, may not be present due to personal reasons. If the
remaining seven go with the government, the UPA tally will be 121,
just two short of the half-way mark.
The Rajya Sabha saw eight hours of intense debate, with the DMK
and NCP clearly spelling out their support for the government,
though the southern party made it clear that it was against
bringing in multi nationals into the country.
"We are relieved (after Mayawati's announcement) but we will keep
trying to garner support till the vote is over," said a senior
Congress leader, who did not wish to be named.
A section of the Congress leaders said the SP could walk out or
abstain from the vote, as it did in the lower house.
"We don't know how the SP will behave during the vote," said the
Congress leader adding, "We have to keep trying to get the numbers
on our side till the voting is over."
The SP has kept the government guessing so far.
The motion is being debated under rules 167-168, which entail
Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury
said: "If this was to be of any benefit to the people and the
economy, we would have supported it. But this is not."
Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut taunted the government, saying it was
"selling the country to foreigners like Wal-Mart. If Sukhdev,
Bhagat Singh were alive, they would have bombed the people who are