New Delhi: The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government on Friday won its second battle on the issue of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail as it defeated the Opposition's motion in Rajya Sabha as well. The government managed to get 123 votes while there were just 102 votes for the motion against FDI in retail, and as many as 19 members did not vote.
The win in the Rajya Sabha, which was expected to be tough for the government, came after MPs of the Samajwadi Party walked out of the Upper House of Parliament, in effect abstaining, and with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in favour of the UPA.
Also, as seen in the Lok Sabha, there were MPs who broke ranks with their party during the vote. Upendra Kushwaha of the JD(U) voted for the government even though his party was against FDI in retail.
The win in the Upper House came two days after the UPA government on Wednesday defeated the motions by the opposition parties in the Lok Sabha. Defeating the motions comfortably in the Lok Sabha, the UPA had got 253 votes in its favour, as there were 218 votes against the government.
Reacting to the victory of the government, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said reforms were on track. He further Refuted BJP's charge that the UPA used the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to get Mayawati's support, saying, "Mayawati voted with the BJP on nuclear deal earlier, then it did not raise the CBI issue. Now when they vote against BJP, BJP accuses of misuse of CBI. This shows the mindset of BJP, it is about the politics of BJP."
The Congress used the opportunity to corner the Opposition, claiming that the perception that the government was in a minority in the Upper House was a myth. Party leader Rajiv Shukla said, "Myth that we are a minority in Rajya Sabha, we will try to push other bills. We will talk to opposition leaders."
Earlier on Friday, even after getting assured of Mayawati's support on the issue, the UPA left no stone unturned as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up all the nominated members ahead of the vote on FDI in multi-brand retail in the Rajya Sabha.
As the debate continued in the Rajya Sabha later, Union Commerce and Industries Minister Anand Sharma reiterated that he had written to all concerned leaders on FDI in retail and got replies from 19 chief ministers. Speaking during the FDI debate in the Rajya Sabha, he said, "I met 14 Chief Ministers in different states on FDI in retail. I wrote to the Leader of the Opposition. I request the Opposition not to charge me of not reaching out to concerned parties. I wrote letters to all concerned."
He also attacked the BJP, saying the party was disrespecting people by saying FDI will create salesboys and salesgirls. "By saying that FDI in retail will create salesgirls and salesboys, BJP is disrespecting those who earn their living by selling products in shops not owned by them," Anand Sharma said.
The Opposition, however, refused to concede its defeat with former BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu saying they wanted to expose the anomalies in the government policy and had succeeded in doing so during the debate. Naidu also said that the motion by the Opposition had exposed the double standards adopted by some parties. He said, "There was U-turn on the part of the BSP, the SP and the DMK...they stand exposed."
The BSP, however, was quick in reacting, as it issued a statement justifying its stand in the Rajya Sabha. The statement said, "We voted for the government as we did not give the Opposition a chance to disrupt the House and stall several important bills concerning public welfare."
The statement further said, "We also voted for government as there is a positive aspect of the FDI policy that each state has been given the right to implement it or not...we did not want to be seen as standing together with communal forces."
Meanwhile, reacting to the cross voting in the House, JD(U) president Sharad Yadav said that the party would take action against MP Upendra Kushwaha for voting in favour of the UPA government on the issue of FDI in retail in the Rajya Sabha on Friday.