Mamata Banerjee's no-confidence motion falls through amid din in Parliament

Fissures in the Opposition over FDI in retail came to the UPA government's aid today as the opening day of Parliament's Winter Session was washed out and Trinamool Congress' move for a no-confidence motion flopped.

At the end of the day, the government convened an all-party meeting on Monday to break the deadlock as BJP and the Left parties insisted on a discussion in Parliament on FDI issue under voting provisions.

BJP and the Left also snubbed former Congress ally Trinamool Congress whose motion fell in the Lok Sabha for want of numbers. Trinamool has only 19 MPs and for a no-confidence motion to be admitted a minimum of 55 MPs have to raise in support of it in the House.

SP and BSP, whose members disrupted both the houses by rushing to the well protesting against the cap on subsidised LPG cylinders and SC/ST reservation issues, refused to play ball with the rest of the Opposition.

The SP, which opposes FDI in retail, however, said it will not "piggyback" on the BJP over its demand for discussion on the issue under a rule that entails voting. Its arch-rival in Uttar Pradesh BSP played its cards close to the chest.

BSP chief Mayawati said the Centre should first decide under which rule it wanted discussion in Parliament on FDI.

First government has to decide, then we will make our stand clear on the floor of the House," she said.

Earlier in the day before the start of the session, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought the cooperation of the Opposition in smooth running of Parliament, which has a heavy legislative agenda before it.

Singh reminded the Opposition of the obligation to work together to enable parliamentary democracy to grapple with the formidable challenges before the country.

On a day when the Lok Sabha was adjourned twice before being adjourned for the day at 2 PM, the BJP pressed for a discussion on the FDI in retail issue under Rule 184 which entails voting.

Left has already given notice for discussion under the same rule. Samajwadi Party has also given notice for adjournment motion on FDI, which Speaker Meira Kumar said was under her consideration.

Pressing for a discussion on FDI in retail under a rule that entails voting, Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the government has shown contempt for the assurances given by then Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who is now the President.

Swaraj said a vote on the issue would show that people of the country were against the move which would affect small traders.

She accused the government of committing "gross insult" of Parliament by not fulfilling its assurance of taking the House into confidence on the issue.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said the government was ready to discuss any issue on the floor of the House as long as it was within the rules of Parliamentary procedure.

"We cannot say we want it under this rule, on this day and at this time. We have to explain that this is not being reasonable," he told reporters about the Opposition attitude.

Speaking at a meeting where CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury was also present, Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said voting will have to be there on the FDI issue.

"Everybody will have to disclose their stand on the issue in Parliament. Without a vote this policy cannot be implemented," he said, taking a veiled dig at SP and BSP noting that there were "some loyal Opposition parties".

The motion, first in the current Lok Sabha, was moved by Trinamool Congress Parliamentary Party leader Sudip Bandopadhyay and was supported by BJD.

However, it lacked the requisite numbers as only TMC's 18 members and BJD's three members supported.

The motion said, "This House expresses want of confidence in the Council of Ministers over its decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail as it is going to harm millions of small businesses."

The Speaker asked all those supporting the motion to stand up. Amidst chants of "shame, shame" from Congress benches, TMC members stood up and there was a verbal clash too.

On seeing the lack of numbers, Kumar said, "The motion does not have the leave of the House".

While the BSP members repeatedly stormed the well demanding dismissal of the Akhilesh Yadav government in Uttar Pradesh, the Speaker disallowed a notice for an adjournment motion of the BSP on the issue of law and order situation in the state.

In the Rajya Sabha, Trinamool Congress and AIADMK raised the issue of FDI in retail when the House met at noon after the first adjournment. BSP members rushed to the well raising slogans and created uproar over the issue of reservation to SCs/STs in promotions.

Discussion on FDI in retail under rule entailing voting? SP, BSP ambivalent

Samajwadi Party and BSP, which support the UPA government from outside, today remained ambivalent on whether there should be a discussion in Parliament on FDI in retail under provisions which entail voting.

SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav held a meeting of his party MPs this morning in Parliament House. However, when asked after the meeting what the party stand would be, he said "let the matter come up first in the House, then we will see. Why ask this question outside"?

Yadav had openly expressed his opposition to FDI in multi-brand retail and even participated in street protests against the issue.

Before the Lok Sabha met for the day, Congress President and UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi walked upto Yadav's seat and wished him on his birthday. She even asked Leader of the House Sushilkumar Shinde to wish Yadav who turned 74 today.

SP MP Shailendra Kumar has given an adjournment motion notice for a discussion on the FDI issue.

BSP MPs also did not speak out clearly on the issue.

"The Centre should first decide under which rule it wanted the discussion in Parliament on FDI. First, government has to decide, then we will make our stand clear on the floor of the House," BSP chief Mayawati told reporters outside Parliament when asked about her stand on the FDI issue.

Both SP and BSP are known for opposing the government on certain issues but fall in line inside Parliament. The opposition parties, especially BJP, have charged that this change in attitude inside Parliament is due to the fear of CBI which is probing cases of disproportionate assets against Yadav and Mayawati.

Tewari takes a dig at Trinamool Congress

As Trinamool's bid to bring a no-confidence motion over FDI fizzled out in Lok Sabha, Union Minister Manish Tewari today took a dig at the former ally saying it was a "peculiar" situation as a 19-member party was trying to decide the "course of action" in the House.

"We have said this earlier also. Indeed it is very peculiar that a party of 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha is proposing such a course of action. It would be appropriate if they reflect upon the implication of their action," the Information and Broadcasting Minister told reporters outside Parliament.

Defending government's stand on the FDI issue, Tewari said, "After all the government has put in place an enabling frame work. If a state government does not want FDI in multi-brand retail, then they are free to do so. But then they should not interfere in other states for the larger public interest and consumer interest."

Asked whether government favours voting on FDI, he said presiding officers have to decide on it.

Left, BJP come together, make common cause on vote on FDI

In a rare display of unity, leaders of Left and BJP today shared a common platform where they voiced a demand for a discussion in Parliament on FDI under rules which entail voting, rejecting government's contention that executive decisions cannot be put to vote.

At a discussion convened by organisations of small traders here, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley, NDA convener and JD-U leader Sharad Yadav and CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury shared the stage and stuck to the stand that Parliament can function only after government allows a discussion on FDI and also takes a vote.

"The government wants that this session should not function. That is why the government does not want voting on any of its policies. This is for the first time anywhere in the world that such a baseless argument is given by any government," Jaitley said.

The BJP leader said FDI policy cannot be implemented in the country without a vote on the issue in Parliament.

He said once FDI comes in the country, it will first affect the manufacturing sector and job displacement of a big kind will take place.

Questioning the government's compulsion on FDI, Jaitley said, "There is some special pressure on this government that it is talking so much in favour of FDI in retail...the last word on this issue has not yet been stated."

Endorsing Jaitley's views, CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury said, "Whatever our own politics, we have got together on this issue because it concerns the nation.

This time if there is any discussion, it will be only with voting. The government is running away from a discussion, not the opposition."

JD-U leader Sharad Yadav said FDI policy should be linked to voting in Parliament.

"We will link it (FDI policy) with votes and not allow its implementation without it. Unless the prestige of vote comes back, the value of democracy will be lowered," he added.

Decision to raise FDI issue in Par taken at NDA meeting: BJP

BJP today raked up the issue of FDI and insisted on discussion in Parliament under a rule that entails voting, apparently wary of raising the corruption issue as its President Nitin Gadkari is facing charges of dubious funding of his Purti Group.

The party cited a bigger Opposition unity on the FDI in retail issue as the reason for its preference to the matter over supporting the no-confidence motion that was moved by the Trinamool Congress.

"In our BJP and later the NDA meeting, it was decided that we would raise the demand for discussion on FDI in retail issue under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and similar provisions in the Rajya Sabha which entail voting. Government has shown disrespect to Parliament by not agreeing to a debate under this rule," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.

The UPA government is of the view that since the FDI decision was taken through an Executive Order, there is no need for voting in Parliament on the matter.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj had given a notice under Rule 184 while her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley gave a similar notice under Rule 167.

Opposition unity may be one factor but others pointed out that the FDI in retail issue has also helped BJP keep the corruption issue at bay as it would also hurt the main Opposition with its president facing allegations.

BJP sources said Swaraj and other senior leaders felt FDI should be given preference over other issues as most Opposition parties were on board for voting on it. The party also felt this would force UPA ally DMK and supporting party SP- which have openly come out against FDI- to take a stand in Parliament.

Hussain said though BJP has been clear from the beginning that the UPA government should be thrown out, Trinamool chief Mamta Banerjee did not get in touch with it or with parties like AIADMK- which are opposed to FDI- to solicit support for its no-confidence motion.

BJP clarified that only Trinamool leader Kalyan Banerjee had reached out to the party on the no-confidence issue and not Mamata. Today morning Sudip Bandopadhyaya also met Swaraj on the same issue but the party had made up its mind.

The party denied earlier reports that Mamata had contacted Swaraj to get BJP support.

Hussain said BJP also wanted to expose parties like SP whose chief Mulayam Singh Yadav had taken part in street protests on the FDI issue but is now keeping everybody guessing on whether it wants voting in Parliament on it.

"After withdrawal of support by TMC, the UPA government has lost its majority and goes into a sweat whenever it comes to voting in Parliament... But since other parties were not on board on the no-confidence motion we did not want to bail out this government on the issue. We preferred the FDI issue on which Opposition is united," Hussain said.

BJP further maintained that though its top leaders-Advani, Swaraj and Jaitley- will attend the Prime Minister's dinner, their stand on discussion and voting on FDI will not change. The party also said it will be firm on this stand even at the all-party meeting called by the government on Monday.

BJP pointed out that when the NDA was in power it had agreed for discussion and voting on two crucial issues but the UPA is running away from it.

"On the BALCO issue we had agreed to a discussion under Rule 184. Even on the issue of who should be in the Cabinet the NDA had agreed to a discussion under the same rule," Hussain said.

He was referring to a discussion and voting on Opposition demand during NDA rule that L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and Uma Bharti should not continue as ministers as they were facing charges in the Babri mosque demolition.

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