PM to host dinner for BJP leaders today

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is banking on dinner diplomacy to help smoothen what promises to be a stormy winter session of Parliament. He has invited leaders of the opposition in the two houses, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley of the Bharatiya Janata Party as also BJP patriarch L K Advani to dinner at his residence this evening.

On Friday, the Prime Minister had hosted dinner for allies of the United Progressive Alliance government to dinner for similar purposes – to sort out the thorny issue of foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail business. M Karunanidhi, leader of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam - the second-biggest constituent of the UPA after the Congress - has recently said his party's stand will only be revealed after the winter session begins on 22 November.

Former UPA constituent Trinamool Congress led by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has now turned into perhaps the bitterest foe of the UPA, and along with some opposition parties plans to bring a resolution against the FDI policy.

The government is unlikely to accept any discussion of retail FDI under Rule 184 (with voting) but is prepared for a debate without voting. The government's stand is that it is an executive decision, which does not need Parliament's approval.

The Congress also needs opposition support, or at least neutrality, as it seeks to pass key economic liberalisation bills such as the insurance and pension Act amendment bills.

As the UPA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, it cannot pass bills without the opposition's help.

The prime minister had met leaders of the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party, the two crucial outside supporters of the UPA, last week. The SP has 22 MPs and the BSP 21. Their support is critical for the bills to have any chance of getting through.