UPA clinches retail FDI vote as SP, BSP walk out

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Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj (PTI) Sonia Gandhi and Sushma Swaraj (PTI)
SummaryUPA managed 253 votes against 218 of opposition that included BJP, Left, BJD and TRS.

The government’s move to allow FDI in multi-brand retail got a formal stamp of approval in the Lok Sabha Wednesday as the UPA convincingly voted out the opposition motion against the policy, with decisive help from the SP and BSP who walked out of the house after speaking against the policy decision.

The motion seeking withdrawal of the executive decision allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, moved by the leader of opposition Sushma Swaraj, was defeated by a margin of 35 votes. Of the total 471 votes cast, the UPA managed 253 votes against the 218 of the opposition that included the BJP, Left, BJD and TRS.

A second vote on a FEMA amendment notification moved by Trinamool MP Saugata Roy was also defeated with the government getting 254 votes against 224 by the opposition.

However, the tougher task before the government now is the debate beginning in the Rajya Sabha Thursday. The numbers are not clearly in favour of the UPA in the upper house even if the SP and BSP abstain.

The division in the Lok Sabha was along expected lines, as demonstrated by the tenor of the debate over the last two days in which both sides tore into each other’s arguments for and against FDI in multi-brand retail. Even the positions of the SP and BSP did not come as a surprise, given that there had been enough indications with government managers aggressively wooing them. SP leader Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP leader Dara Singh had strongly attacked the FDI decision but when it came to voting, the two parties walked out of the house.

Replying to the debate, Commerce minister Anand Sharma rebutted the opposition contention that the government had failed to build a consensus among all stakeholders that included political parties and state governments on the subject.

In a point by point rebuttal, Sharma listed out letters that were written to political parties as well as the number of meetings held at the official level by the government with farmers’ organisations and others. He said 11 state governments out of 21 had strongly endorsed allowing FDI in multi-brand retail, which had caused the government to push the decision.

Contesting the victory of the government, Swaraj interpreted the debate as a clear indication that the “sense of the house” was against FDI in multi-brand retail. She said that of the 18 parties that participated in the debate, only four - Congress, NCP,

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