Battle between Govt, Opposition set to move from House to streets

The Congress has once again proved to be the master of Parliamentary manoeuvring.

It managed this in the past during the confidence vote over nuclear deal in 2008 and the vote on the cut motion in 2010 against fuel price hike.

The way last week’s heated debate and vote on the Government’s decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail were handled brought accolades to UPA’s new Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Kamal Nath.

If it was Kamal Nath today, in the past, Ministers such as Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, Vayalar Ravi and Pawan Kumar Bansal were instrumental in mustering majority for UPA on various occasions.

The Opposition enters all such debates foreseeing a defeat. During their speeches on FDI retail, Opposition members said that toppling the Government was not their intention.

Still, the Government ensured a majority in both the Houses to implement the policy, supported mainly by just four parties — the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Rashtriya Lok Dal.

The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party provided the Government the support it needed. The SP walked out of both the Houses ahead of voting. The BSP voted for the Government in the Rajya Sabha and abstained in the Lok Sabha.

This formula may be used by the Government to push reforms in banking, insurance and pension sectors. Key finance Bills are likely to come up for Parliament approval during this session.

The Left parties have said that by linking communalism to FDI in retail and other reform steps, the SP and BSP have belittled the stand on communalism. The SP’s and BSP’s stand may have helped the BJP to strengthen its base in Uttar Pradesh.

The BJP will peg its revival hopes in Uttar Pradesh on the opposition to FDI in retail, and hope to garner support from the traders’ communities.

The Amendment to Foreign Exchange Management Act Rules will be debated and probably voted in Rajya Sabha. In Lok Sabha, MPs from the Opposition side continue to move annulments to the amendments. But there may not be a Parliamentary debate on FDI in retail.

Taking to the streets

All the Opposition parties are trying to take their protests to the streets.

The BJP, which has a support base among traders, has already charted out plans to hold protests. The party has asked its State governments to “reject” the Centre’s notification on implementing the policy decision on FDI retail.

The CPI(M) is starting nationwide rallies, which culminate in Delhi in March, against the economic policies of the Centre.

A senior CPI(M) MP pointed out after the debate that the Opposition will get a number of opportunities to corner the Government on FDI in retail.

The Opposition feels that the entry of multinational retail giants will result in confrontation between the farmers and retailers against them.

The Opposition is also waiting for the results of the US investigation into the alleged corruption scandals of Walmart executives in India.

They may put pressure on the Centre to announce a probe.

There may be more drama on the cards.

(This article was published on December 9, 2012)
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