Parliament logjam unlikely to end today; UPA to meet 'allies'

The logjam in Parliament over foreign direct investment in retail continues today, with the Bharatiya Janata Party giving notice for the suspension of question hour in the Rajya Sabha and discussion on FDI under rule 184, which entails voting. This was decided at the BJP parliamentary party meeting today.

After Monday's inconclusive all-party meet, the United Progressive Alliance coordination committee will meet today to discuss whether to allow voting on the issue. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will also meet Congress allies on the issue.

The UPA has so far agreed to discuss the issue without putting it to the vote, on the ground that allowing FDI in multi-brand retail is an executive decision and does not require parliamentary approval. But latest reports suggest that it may agree to a discussion under rule 184, which entails voting, as it has the numbers to win.

The government wants to end the deadlock because it needs to pass important bills relating to the insurance and banking sectors as well as a Lokpal bill, so as to keep economic liberalisation and social reforms on track and end the perception of a paralysis in policy-making.

If the matter comes to a vote, the government is likely to have the backing of the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, and possibly even Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress, which has so far been the most strident in its criticism of the liberalisation measures. All three parties have already indicated that they are against forcing a vote on the issue.

On the other hand, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, the AIADMK, the BJD, the TDP, and the two Left parties are insistent on bringing the matter to a vote. The DMK, a constituent of the ruling UPA, is still keeping its cards close to its chest, and could swing either way.

Facing his first serious challenge, recently appointed parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said on Monday, "We have had useful discussion. All parties say house must run. I have appealed to those who wanted discussion under Rule 184 to reconsider their decision. I will speak to the presiding officers," said Nath.

The support of the BSP is conditional – it says the government must bring in the 'quota bill'. BSP chief Mayawati has asked for a commitment from the government on the passage of the bill that provides for reservations for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes in promotion in government jobs.