Government was Wednesday bracing itself for an opposition onslaught in the Parliament session beginning next week over the issue of FDI in retail on which a number of opposition parties have given motions entailing voting in the Lok Sabha.
The decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, which was announced in September, does not require Parliamentary approval because it is an executive action but if the opposition comes together and have their motions adopted in Parliament, it will be a moral defeat and an embarrassment for the UPA.
To add to government's discomfiture, sulking ally DMK declined to disclose its stand on how it would vote either on such motions or a no-confidence motion, which is likely to be moved by erstwhile UPA constituent Trinamool Congress.
At present, the government enjoys the support of about 265 MPs, including 18 of DMK, in a house of 545. With the support of Samajwadi Party (22) and BSP (21), the backing for the ruling coalition goes a little over 300, which is comfortable over the required 273 in Lok Sabha.
BSP and SP together or individually have not shown signs of withdrawing support so far.
BJP to oppose government on FDI in retail
Refusing to give up on the FDI in multi-brand retail issue which could affect its core vote bank of small traders, BJP on Wednesday said it will oppose the government decision in Parliament and try to build a joint strategy with NDA partners and other political parties.
"BJP will strongly oppose the government decision on FDI in multi-brand retail in the forthcoming winter session of Parliament. This decision is not in the interest of the country," party chief spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
He announced that BJP will discuss its strategy with other NDA partners and also get in touch with political parties which have reservations on the issue.
The NDA allies are likely to hold a meeting on November 21, a day before the winter session begins.
"We would like to put the government on the mat on this issue. In November 2011, the then Finance Minister had announced in the Lok Sabha that a decision on FDI in multi-brand retail will be taken only after consulting all concerned sections. A similar statement was made by the then Commerce Minister in the Rajya Sabha," Prasad said.
BJP charged that this promise has been violated by the government as it has taken the decision unilaterally.
But the principal Opposition is not yet clear to what extent it will go against the government in Parliament.
Though the opposition claims to have support of majority of MPs in both Houses on the issue, the NDA is unlikely to press for a vote on the issue.
Asked if BJP and NDA would rally behind Mamata Banerjee's TMC in case it seeks division of votes to embarrass the government, the party said it will decide its future course of action in the NDA meeting.
The Left parties are also opposed to the decision.
But the Opposition designs may be thwarted by the Chair in both Houses if it denies permission for a motion on the issue. Government has the right to bring FDI in multi-brand retail through an executive decision.
A discussion without voting is, however, possible.
DMK unsure on FDI in retail
UPA constituent DMK today upped the ante on the FDI in retail issue with its "suspense" on any opposition no-confidence motion as the Left parties tabled a motion that will seek a vote on the subject.
The main opposition BJP also said it will oppose the government decision on FDI in Parliament and gave enough signals of trying to build a joint strategy with other political parties and its NDA partners.
With just a week left for the Winter Session of Parliament to begin, DMK president M Karunanidhi said his party's stand on the FDI issue is a "suspense". The support of DMK, the second largest group in UPA with its 18 MPs in Lok Sabha, is crucial for the UPA in case of a voting on a motion.
"Small and medium retail traders in Tamil Nadu are apprehensive that Foreign Direct Investment would greatly affect them. We would discuss and take a decision on this (FDI) keeping their interest in mind," Karunanidhi said.
To persistent queries on why DMK was maintaining suspense on the FDI issue and whether it would support a no-confidence motion against the government, Karunanidhi, also a well-known screenplay writer, said: "I have written the script for more than 100 films. A film would be successful only if it has suspense."
When asked whether DMK would support Left parties and some other parties' proposed resolution with provision for voting in Parliament on FDI, he said the party's views would be made known after consultations with DMK Parliamentary Party members.
Finance Minister P Chidambaram has had a significant meeting with Karunanidhi on Monday though what they discussed has not been officially disclosed by either side.
Meanwhile, acting on a joint decision of four Left parties on Monday, the CPI(M) on Wednesday said it has submitted notices in both the Houses seeking a discussion on the issue under rules entailing voting.