Confident of numbers, UPA says it’s ready for vote on FDI in retail

With four major parties outside the UPA that together have 80 members in the Lok Sabha virtually on its side, the UPA government on Tuesday exuded confidence and said it is not averse to a vote on the foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail decision in Parliament.

With the 18-member DMK also willing to support the government for fear of the "communal BJP" coming to power if the current regime collapsed, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh categorically said: "Yes, we are confident of numbers." He earlier had an hour-long meeting with leaders of the UPA, who vowed to stay together. Singh's view was echoed by parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath, who said the government was not concerned over the prospect of a debate with voting and it was for the Speaker to take a call.

While the Samajwadi Party with 22 members in the Lok Sabha, Bahujan Samaj Party with 21 members and Trinamool Congress (19) willing to let the matter be decided by the Speaker, the government is on a strong wicket.

"The UPA is fully united on any decision of the Speaker and the government... All constituents are firmly behind the government," Nath said. With economic growth in the second quarter predicted to have been just a trifle above 5% and the looming danger of a big fiscal slippage, the government is keen that a few reform Bills are passed by Parliament in the winter session.

Sources said a formal announcement for discussion on FDI in retail is expected to be made by the Lok Sabha Speaker and Rajya Sabha vice-chairman on Thursday. The Opposition parties – including the BJP and the Left parties – continued to stall the functioning of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha for the fourth consecutive day on Tuesday. UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, defence minister AK Antony, RLD's Ajit Singh, DMK's TR Baalu, NCP's Sharad Pawar and Praful Patel, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah and finance minister P Chidambaram were present at the UPA meeting on Tuesday.

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