The government’s move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail got a formal stamp of approval in the Lok Sabha Wednesday as the UPA convincingly voted out the opposition motion against the policy, with decisive help from the SP and BSP who walked out of the house after speaking against the policy decision.
The motion seeking withdrawal of the executive decision allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail, moved by the leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj, was defeated by a margin of 35 votes. Of the total 471 votes cast, the UPA managed 253 votes against the 218 of the opposition that included the BJP, Left, BJD and TRS.
A second vote on a FEMA amendment notification moved by Trinamool MP Saugata Roy was also defeated with the government getting 254 votes against 224 by the opposition.
However, the tougher task before the government now is the debate beginning Thursday in the Rajya Sabha, where the numbers are not in favour of the UPA.
There were several takeaways from the Lok Sabha vote and the engaging debate, which saw strong clashes as also the coming together of unlikely partners — CPI(M) and Trinamool Congress against FDI in multi-brand retail and SP and BSP to bail the government out.
First, it was evident that no party was interested in rocking the UPA boat, even if the FDI vote was not technically a referendum on the government, and the victory came as a relief to MPs individually. This, even when the “sense of the house” appeared to be against FDI in multi-brand retail with major parties including the BJP, Left, SP, BSP and Trinamool strongly opposing it during the debate.
Second, Commerce minister Anand Sharma revealed during his reply that he had made fresh changes in the policy — instead of retail chains eligible to set up shop only in cities with a population of 10 lakh and above, they can open in smaller cities too. This was done after protests from states such as Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Assam that have cities with smaller populations.
Third, the vote reaffirmed the government’s total dependence on the SP and BSP in Parliament to get critical legislations passed, beginning with the bill allowing for quotas in promotions for SCs and STs the BSP is keen on. The walkouts by the SP and BSP, however, did not come as a surprise as government managers had aggressively wooed them.