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Power Games: UPA, Oppn Test FDI Strength

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Even as the stage appeared set for a credit rating downgrade with the fiscal deficit swelling to 5.6 per cent of the GDP, the Winter Session of Parliament got off to a stormy start on 22 November. Proceedings of the first day got washed out over FDI in retail and an attempt by Trinamool Congress to bring no-confidence motion against the government flopped due to lack of requisite numbers.

Read: Fiscal Deficit To Touch 5.5-5.6% In FY13

While the Lok Sabha was adjourned twice before being adjourned for the day at 2 PM, the BJP pressed for a discussion on the FDI in retail issue under Rule 184 which entails voting. The Left has already given notice for discussion under the same rule. Samajwadi Party has also given notice for adjournment motion on FDI, which Speaker Meira Kumar said was under her consideration.

Read: TMC No-confidence Motion Fails

However, the Samajwadi Party made it clear it was not keen to "piggyback" on the BJP over its demand for discussion on the issue under a rule that entails voting.

At the end of the day, the Government convened an all-party meeting on November 26 to break the deadlock as BJP and the Left parties insisted on a discussion in Parliament on FDI issue under voting provisions.

SP and BSP, whose members disrupted both the houses by rushing to the well protesting against the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and SC/ST reservation issues, refused to play ball with the rest of the Opposition.

The government pointed out that an executive decision could not be a subject for debate under such a rule but asserted that it has the numbers to beat such a move. "An executive decision cannot be a subject for debate under a rule that entails voting. It can be a subject matter of debate. But it doesn't have to be under Rule 184 (which entails voting). Parliament ultimately must be made to run according to the rule book," law minister Ashwani Kumar told reporters outside Parliament House.

While stressing that SP is very much against FDI, SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav told reporters outside Parliament "we are not for piggybacking on the BJP."

Asked under which rule they want discussion in the House on the issue, Yadav said "we want discussion but it does not depend upon our wish. It is the discretion of the Lok Sabha Speaker. If she allows under 184 then discussion will be under 184 if she does not then it will under 193."

Numbers With Us: Law Minister
Asked whether the Opposition wanted to see the government's defeat on the issue on the floor of the House, law minister Ashwani Kumar said, "They are not going to succeed. We have the numbers with us."

Criticising the Opposition for disrupting the proceedings of the House, the minister said, "We have seen in every section of Parliament something or the other is raked up and an attempt is made to make Parliament dysfunctional."

He asked the Opposition to cooperate with the government to make it functional.

Noting that certain policy issues should be seen as being above partisan politics, Kumar said the government will endeavour to ensure that a broad consensus is arrived at for its policies.

Congress leader and Rajya Sabha MP Satyavrat Chaturvedi also criticised the Opposition for disrupting the proceedings.

"When the government is ready for a discussion on any issue, why is the Opposition running away? The blame for disrupting the Parliament session will finally rest with the Opposition. The people of the nation are watching," Chaturvedi said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought cooperation of all his colleagues in both the Houses to come together and address issues and challenges facing the nation.

Against the backdrop of vociferous opposition to FDI in retail and a threat of a no-confidence motion, Singh also reminded the Opposition of the obligation to work together to enable parliamentary democracy to grapple with the formidable challenges before the country.

Noting that Parliament had a very heavy legislative agenda during the Winter Session, Singh said, "I seek cooperation from my collegaues in the House to come together and address the issues and challenges that we face as a nation".

The Prime Minister said the government was ready to discuss all the issues on the floor of both the Houses.

Read: PM Seeks Oppn Cooperation In Winter Session 

TMC No-confidence Motion Fails
As soon as the two Houses met for the day, there was uproar in the Rajya Sabha over issues like FDI and reservation to SCs/STs in promotions.

In the Lok Sabha, an attempt by former UPA ally Trinamool Congress to bring a no-confidence motion against the government over FDI in retail failed, with the Speaker disallowing it as it could not muster the required support of 54 members.

The motion, first in the current Lok Sabha, was moved by Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay and was supported by BJD.

However, it lacked the requisite numbers as only TMC's 18 members and BJD's three supported.

Mamata Slams "Saviours Of Government"
The motion said, "This House expresses want of confidence in the council of ministers over its decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail as it is going to harm millions of small businesses."

Hours after rejection of the no-confidence motion moved by her party, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee criticised political parties which did not support the cause "citing various excuses" and claimed that the "saviours of the government" had been exposed.

"Today, you have seen that according to our commitment to the people of the country, AITMC Members of Parliament have moved the No-Confidence Motion against the UPA Government on the opening day of the Session," Banerjee wrote in Facebook.

"We knew our limitation was the strength, and ultimately, that is why the Motion was rejected," the West Bengal Chief Minister said.

"But we thought that other Members who are so vociferous against FDI in retail and other sectors, and various other anti-people decisions of the UPA Government, would join the No-Trust Move against the Government," she said in her post, without naming any particular political outfit.

(With inputs from Agencies)