A confidence vote may be just what the government wants

The Cong-led coalition may win a trust vote, but it will be tougher to face a vote on a motion against FDI in retail
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First Published: Mon, Nov 19 2012. 09 27 PM IST
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Photo: Indranil Bhoumik/Mint
Updated: Mon, Nov 19 2012. 11 14 PM IST
New Delhi: The confidence vote that the Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee wants to force the government to seek in the winter session of Parliament that begins on Thursday may be, contrary to popular belief, just what the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) wants.
That’s because the Congress-led ruling coalition is sure to win a trust vote—many parties are unwilling to face polls now—but it will be tougher for it to face a vote on a motion against foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
Its ally, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK), and the Samajwadi Party (SP), a so-called friendly party that supports the UPA without being a part of the government, have already voiced their opposition to foreign investment in supermarkets, and they cannot vote in favour of it.
A trust vote is an entirely different issue altogether, and both the parties, and indeed, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP, another “friendly” party), will vote for the government.
Banerjee, also the chief minister of West Bengal, is trying to repeat what her arch rival, the Left Front, did in 2008. The Communist Party of India-Marxist or CPM-led Left Front withdrew its support to the UPA government over the India-US nuclear deal, in the hope that a combined opposition would be able to defeat a trust vote moved by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
This time, the issue is FDI in the retail sector and, like 2008, the opposition seems united.
Still, the outcome of a trust vote is likely to be the same as that of 2008.
Banerjee, who has been a strident critic of UPA’s policies —even when she was part of the government—has sought the support of the Left Front and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Interestingly, she has not yet sought the cooperation of the SP and the BSP, although she does have a good equation with SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Although opposed to foreign investment in retail (and in most other businesses), the communists are very clear they do not want to burn their fingers again. The communists know a trust vote will likely not work to their advantage (and even they aren’t prepared for early elections).
The communists are more interested in embarrassing the government and want a debate, followed by a vote, in Parliament that will expose what they call the “real picture” because many parties which are opposing FDI in retail publicly may not be in a position to vote against the government. (If the debate takes place under rule 184 in the Lok Sabha and 168 in the Rajya Sabha, it has to be followed by a vote). Losing this vote will embarrass the government, but do little else.
BJP finds itself on a stickier wicket. Its opposition to FDI isn’t ideological but opportunistic. Still, it doesn’t want to miss a chance to rattle the government. Had the arithmetic supported it, BJP might have gone for the kill. And, even some of BJP’s allies such as the Janata Dal-United are not in favour of a trust vote. If forced to seek a vote, and if it wins, UPA is safe for the next six months during which another vote cannot be sought. And, like many other parties, BJP isn’t ready for general elections yet.
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First Published: Mon, Nov 19 2012. 09 27 PM IST
More Topics: UPA | Mamata Banerjee | TMC | BJP | DMK |