Having conceded a floor test on FDI in multi-brand retail, Congress strategists are aware the vote in the Rajya Sabha is set to go down to the wire and the ruling coalition will need to pull off a few surprises to pip the Opposition to the post.
As it banks on 10 nominated MPs to press the button in its favour, the government will eye Tendulkar’s seat number 103 wistfully, perhaps hoping the batting maestro scores in the Upper House rather than at Eden Gardens.
The problem for the government is that even if the full complement of nominated MPs, including film star Rekha and businesswoman Anu Aga, vote for the FDI motion, it may still find it difficult to conjure a majority.
Crunching numbers in the Rajya Sabha is hardly a Rubik’s cube exercise. UPA with “inside supporters” has 90 MPs. Its “outside” supporters add up to 31. But as of now BSP with 15 and SP with nine are threatening not to vote for the government. So the total adds up to 97.
Now, if we toss the 10 nominated MPs and BJD rebel Pyarimohan Mohapatra into the broth, UPA numbers inch up to 108. This is still short of what the government needs because even if SP and BSP abstain, the half way mark is 111.
Not willing to cut things so fine, the government managers will use the breathing space they gain before the vote comes up later next week to persuade SP and BSP to do the rescue act. It may find the going easier with BSP and this could see UPA through.
SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav continues to tantalize the Congress, saying politics cannot be foretold and much depends on the evolving situation, though he remains opposed to FDI in retail . In doing so he seems to be over ridding his cousin Ramgopal Yadav’s earlier statement that SP will vote against the FDI proposal.
BSP is insistent on the government moving a Bill, providing quotas in promotions for scheduled castes and tribes. The government is hoping to bring BSp chief Mayawati around, pointing out that the Bill has been listed.
The Rajya Sabha is a lot trickier than Lok Sabha where the FDI vote will go its way even without SP and BSP voting in favour of the government. In the Upper House, the Opposition is also expected to work on votes like those of independent MP Rajeev Chandrashekar. Unattached MP Amar Singh may suddenly find both camps wooing him.
A crucial vote always throws up the unexpected and as Congress managers are no rookies in rustling up support, some MPs can go missing or fall ill as was seen when the contentious Lokpal Bill was hotly debated last December.
This time, the government will have to pull out all stops to get some of the committed one-MP parties to switch sides even as the role of its former ally Trinamool Congress can prove to be important. If Trinamool abstains along with SP and BSP, the effective strength of the House becomes 212; the halfway mark is 106.
This can help the Congress, but it will need quite a remarkable alignment of constellations to ensure that BSP, SP and Trinamool act in concert.