A late- evening meeting between Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath and BSP general secretary S C Mishra, and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s phone call to SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav on the eve of the debate in the Rajya Sabha on allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, virtually ensured the upper hand for the government against the opposition motion to defeat the policy decision.
The outcome of the government’s moves was evident Thursday with BSP chief Mayawati launching a frontal attack on the BJP for hinting that her party’s stand to walk out in the Lok Sabha and save the government was linked to the CBI cases against her.
While Mayawati went on to declare that her party would vote with the government on the motion in the upper house, the SP indicated that it would again walk out like it did in the Lok Sabha.
“The remarks that I got to read indicated their shallowness, pettiness and cheap mentality,” Mayawati said referring to comments by leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, on Wednesday. The BSP chief cited Swaraj’s barbs for her decision to go one step further in the Rajya Sabha and vote with the government.
Sources said that Mayawati had been seething over Swaraj’s remarks and sensing an opportunity, the Congress reached out to her. Kamal Nath is said to have explained to Mishra to not treat the vote as only to do with FDI but as a vote against BJP. He is also learnt to have stressed that a victory for the opposition would give a handle to the BJP to stall the house, jeopardising the chances of the constitutional amendment bill to provide quotas for SCs and STs in promotions in government jobs, a move being pushed by the BSP.
Also, since the implementation of the retail FDI policy has been left to the states, the BSP was asked to not worry about the political fallout if the party joined hands with the government in the Rajya Sabha.
The meeting is said to have gone late into the night and by the end of it, the Congress came back assured that the BSP would go the extra distance. Both arguments said to have been made by the Congress were echoed in Mayawati’s speech in the house Thursday.
While Mayawati went by the script, the government managed to prevent the SP from defecting to the opposition camp like it had done during the discussion on the Lokpal bill last December. For this, SP sources said, the PM spoke to Yadav late last night to thank him for bailing out the government in the Lok Sabha and is learnt to have appealed to him to avoid upsetting the UPA applecart in the Rajya Sabha as well.
The SP, however, was not aware of the talks between the government and the BSP and was taken aback by Mayawati’s stance in the Rajya Sabha. Having been beaten to the walkout in the Lok Sabha, the SP was a trifle upset with Mayawati stealing the show again.
“We will stage a walk-out in protest,” SP leader Naresh Agarwal, who participated in the debate in the Rajya Sabha, told The Indian Express.
Pushed back by Mayawati’s caustic attack in the Rajya Sabha, the BJP sought to retaliate by alleging that her support smacked of a deal between the BSP and the government in the wake of a fresh notice being issued to her in a disproportionate assets case after a review petition was filed against the Supreme Court verdict which had chastised the CBI for undertaking investigation without a mandate.
“Why this metamorphosis in the BSP in one day? They boycotted FDI in retail during the debate in the Lok Sabha but have declared open support to it. BSP must explain what was the compulsion that led to the change,” said deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, Ravi Shankar Prasad.
He asked if the move was linked to the “disproportionate assets case where notices have been issued to her and the CBI” because “the surrounding circumstances are too suspicious to indicate a deal between BSP and Congress”.
He also said that the “BJP totally condemns the most abusing and substandard comments against the leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha. We welcome criticism, but this was abuse.”