The government and opposition could reach a face-saving solution to end the logjam in Parliament over the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail. The debate on the contentious subject could take place next week but with voting only in the Lok Sabha, where the UPA has a clear majority, and not the Rajya Sabha, where it would have to work on the numbers.
At a meeting this morning, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath is said to have proposed to Leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley that a discussion on FDI in retail could be had in the Lok Sabha under a rule with voting provisions (Rule 184) if the opposition did not insist on a similar provision in the Rajya Sabha.
The government proposal came after both BJP leaders stuck to the stand that the FDI debate would have to be voted upon to get a sense of the House. They reminded Nath that Pranab Mukherjee, as then leader of the house, had assured that all stakeholders would be consulted before a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail was taken. The response of the BJP leaders to the face-saver solution was not negative, sources said.
Nath also attempted to extract an assurance from them on support over important legislations pending in Parliament. But both Swaraj and Jaitley remained non-commital, according to sources. Several reforms measures like the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill, Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill and the Prevention of Money Laundering (Amendment) Bill — critical for the government and on which the BJP does not have ideological differences with the UPA — are pending in Parliament.
The announcements for the FDI debate under voting or non-voting provisions in the two Houses are likely to be made by the respective presiding officers on Thursday, should all go well. “Presiding officers can take any decision they want in the interest of running Parliament,” Nath said after his meeting with the Opposition leaders. Insisting that numbers were “not a worry” for the government, he said that the MPs are responsible enough to decide (on the issue).
“From day one I have said we have the numbers,” he said when asked if the government became ready for a vote only after key ally DMK came on board. Nath, who met Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari on Tuesday, also met Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar Wednesday morning.