Given that the Samajwadi Party and the BSP had been objecting publicly to allowing FDI in retail, neither was ever expected to vote in support of the government. The question was, therefore, which of the two would be the first to stage a walkout, an inevitability as a bailout for the government.
Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav was in the Lok Sabha and his arch rival Mayawati outside. As it turned out, it was she who trumped him in their contest.
BSP leader Dara Singh Chouhan rose at 5.38 pm, in the middle of Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s speech, to declare the BSP’s walkout. Chouhan and his deputy Dr Baliram, it is learnt, had been summoned by Mayawati about an hour earlier to take instructions on the party’s final strategy, which they put into effect before Mulayam could put his.
“The honorable minister appears to have taken note of points raised by the Leader of Opposition. Our party is not in agreement (with the minister) and we are staging a walkout,” Chouhan interrupted Sharma.
It was quite clear that Mulayam was taken aback. He was seen trying to collect himself, especially after having been foxed by Chouhan, whom he had sent to the Rajya Sabha during his SP days.
Mulayam’s deputy Rewati Raman Singh and SP chief whip Shailendra Kumar, both sitting behind Yadav, went into discussions with the chief. It was 13 tense minutes before Mulayam eventually made his move. Holding his papers in his left hand and his microphone in the other, he spent those minutes waiting for the cue to make his move.
As Sharma was concluding his speech, Mulayam declared, “(Domestic) retail trade has been ignored. The SP boycotts (this debate).” He took his flock out of the House around 5:51 pm amid jeers from the Opposition benches.
Outside the House, Mulayam explained to reporters, “We walked out because the government has neglected the interest of farmers and small traders.”
The walkout having bailed the government out with only a wafer-thin margin, the BJP and the Left parties expect a repeat in the Rajya Sabha will keep it tight for the government.
The government is trying to rally support from nominated and independent members. Sources said the government is trying to get BSP to extend its support in a crunch situation, in lieu of the government's commitment to enact a constitutional amendment for SC/ST reservation in government job promotions.