The lull of the festive season gave way to hectic political activity on Monday as the Opposition started closing its ranks ahead of the Winter Session, to try defeat the government in a floor-test over the FDI issue in Parliament. According to sources, shedding ideological constraints, Left leaders on Monday reached out to the BJP.
While the session is beginning on November 22, sources said the two Houses may adjourn on the first day as a mark of respect for Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who passed away on Saturday.
Non-Congress parties are pushing two different modes for seeking a head count. The NDA and Left parties favour a discussion on a motion under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and under Rule 167 in the Rajya Sabha — which mandate voting. The BJP as well as Left parties had given notice under these rules.
The Trinamool Congress, which broke away from the UPA some time back, is insistent on moving a motion of no-confidence in the Lok Sabha. However, the Lok Sabha Secretariat disclosed that it had not received any notice regarding this so far.
In a bid to get together the maximum parties, CPM general secretary Prakash Karat, sources said, had given the green signal to party floor leaders in the Lok Sabha (Basudeb Acharia) and Rajya Sabha (Sitaram Yechury) to reach out across the spectrum, including the BJP. Sources said they had both contacted the BJP’s Leaders of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha).
Karat himself met NDA convenor and JD (U) chief Sharad Yadav on Sunday, while the latter held talks with Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav. Though the SP supports the UPA government from the outside, it has declared itself opposed to the government’s FDI measures.
According to sources, both the Left and NDA feel their best strategy is to force a floor-test on the FDI issue, while a no-trust vote could push parties like the SP into the UPA fold. They are of the view that more homework must be done before a drastic step such as a no-confidence motion, and that it be pushed only when the overall political scene indicated its success. If tabled at a premature stage, it could only end up giving the government a lease of life for the next six months, they feel.
Though senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi claimed on Sunday that West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee had called up Sushma and sought the BJP’s support for her no-confidence motion, there was no confirmation forthcoming of the same on Monday either. Trinamool general secretary Mukul Roy has denied such a call.
Still the BJP is in no hurry to dismiss the Trinamool, a potential future ally, in a hurry. “We will take a decision on the issue tomorrow,” party spokesperson Prakash Javadekar said on Monday. NDA floor leaders were to meet later in the evening to work out a strategy for the session.
“A no-confidence motion will only help the government cover up all the wrong measures it has taken and claim parliamentary mandate, as it has the numbers to defeat such a motion,” Karat told reporters. “I hope the Opposition will come to an understanding.”
Yechury also said the government could take a win in the no-trust move as an endorsement of its “anti-people” policies. A motion entailing voting to oppose FDI in multi-brand retail would be “a much better strategy to defeat the government’s move”, he said, adding that parties like the SP would support such a motion but not a no-confidence vote.
Interestingly, he indicated that the Left could take a final call on the basis of the “real situation in Parliament”.
“The track record of Trinamool,” he said, “shows that they say one thing but do something else. So, we will have to wait and see.”
Karat rubbished Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s argument that no executive decision had been challenged by Parliament in Independent India. Terming the argument as “specious”, he said that Lok Sabha records show that on March 1, 2001, Roop Chand Pal had moved such a motion in the House over disinvestment of Balco. The then NDA government had agreed to allow discussion and voting on this executive decision under Rule 184.
“Rule 184 has been invoked to discuss... If Parliament cannot debate a decision that affects 40 million people, what is Parliament for?” he asked.