Mayawati on its side, govt sails through RS vote on retail FDI

FP

Commerce minister Anand Sharma described it as a decisive victory for the government. Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath termed the outcome a "rejection" of the BJP's politics and hinted the government would bring more reform bills. "Certainly, we are going to bring in more legislation in the coming weeks in Parliament and we will be engaging all political parties on it," Nath said when asked whether the vote was a signal for more reforms.

The final tally, minister of state for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said, was 123 votes against the motion and 102 for it. As many as 19 members did not vote. There was some confusion over the numbers earlier after which Shukla had demanded a recalculation. The strength of the house is 244 as the seat which fell vacant after the death of Vilasrao Deshmukh is yet to be filled.

Shukla said the difference of 21 votes showed that even without the BSP "we were comfortably winning. So this entire myth of UPA being in a minority in the Rajya Sabha has been busted". While the UPA got all its votes barring that of Congress's Murli Deora who is unwell, the opposition numbers have come down exposing the division in its ranks, he said.

Apart from the TDP members and Deora, JD(U)'s Bashistha Narain Singh, expelled BJD leader Pyarimohan Mohapatra and nominated member Sachin Tendulkar were also absent. Singh had taken permission to stay away because of a wedding in his family.

Before the voting, the house witnessed opposition and treasury benches clashing several times. It plunged into turmoil and had to be adjourned after Sharma said a Planning Commission report prepared in 2002 by a committee headed by N K Singh - now a JD(U) MP - had recommended FDI in the retail sector.

Singh countered him, but with Sharma not yielding, the entire opposition came to his support. NDA members led by leader of the opposition Arun Jaitley demanded an apology from Sharma for "misleading" the house, resulting in the disruption.

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