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Lok Sabha to debate and vote on FDI in retail on Dec 4, 5; Oppn wants Rajya Sabha to follow suit

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Nov 29, 2012 at 01:24pm IST

New Delhi: The deadlock over FDI in retail came to an end in Lok Sabha on Thursday as the Speaker fixed the date for a debate and vote on the issue which will take place on December 4 and December 5. Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said the Opposition will let the house function since the government had agreed to a debate and vote on FDI in retail under rule 184. However, the government is yet to concede the Opposition's demand in Rajya Sabha which was adjourned for the day on Thursday. The issue was resolved at a meeting between Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, Leader of the House Sushil Kumar Shinde and Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar earlier in the day.

However, the BJP has said that it wants a vote on FDI in the Rajya Sabha too. "We will continue to press for voting in the Rajya Sabha. Both Houses have a similar status," BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said. While the UPA has claimed it is sure of the numbers in both houses, sources said that the Congress will make some attempts on Thursday to ensure all goes well - especially in the Rajya Sabha.

Meanwhile, Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has convened a meeting of leaders of all parties to find a solution to the House impasse on the opposition demand for a discussion on FDI in retail with voting provision. Sources said the meeting is likely to evolve a solution on the lines of the decision made in Lok Sabha to have a vote on the discussion on FDI. They said it would be difficult not to allow a vote after the Lok Sabha has decided on such a course though the government may have reservations. The ruling UPA is on thin ice on the numbers in the Upper House and will have to persuade reluctant allies to positively vote for it.

Lok Sabha to debate, vote on FDI on Dec 4, 5

However, the government is yet to concede the Opposition's demand for a vote and a debate in Rajya Sabha.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath will be meeting SP, BSP and Left leaders again later in the day. Sources said that both Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati are likely to tell their leaders to abstain from a vote. Nath had met Sushma Swaraj and her Rajya Sabha counterpart Arun Jaitley on Wednesday as well, where the leaders decided that Parliament should function and the discussion on FDI would be put to vote. After the meeting, Swaraj said that the Opposition wants Parliament to function and has told the government that a defeat on FDI will not lead to its downfall, so it must agree to the Opposition's demand.

Nath also said that the government wanted Parliament to function and the deadlock on FDI has been resolved. "Both Houses of Parliament must function. Voting on FDI is not needed, but we have left the final decision on the presiding officers of the two Houses," he said.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Congress leader Rajiv Shukla was also present at the meeting. The UPA's change of heart came after it received a boost from its allies, especially DMK, which assured it of having the numbers to survive the vote.

The numbers in the Lok Sabha

Total Strength of the Lok Sabha is 544 and the half way mark is 272

UPA: 254

Congress(206) + DMK(18) + NCP(9) + Others (21)

Outside support for UPA: 50

SP(22) + BSP(21) + RJD(4) + JDS(3)

Opposition: 240

NDA (152) + Left Front(24) + TMC(19) + Others(45)

For FDI:

UPA(254) + RJD(4) + JDS(3) = 261

Against FDI:

NDA(152) + LEFT(24) = 176

To abstain:

SP(22) + BSP(21) + TMC(19) = 62

Because of the abstentions, the total strength reduces to 482 and the half way mark comes down to 241.

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