The government on Friday won the vote in the Rajya Sabha on foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, two days after it sailed through the Lok Sabha, finally getting endorsement from parliament for a policy seen as a major step forward in its reforms process. Getting support once again from the unlikely combination of Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party (SP) and Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the government won the day in the Rajya Sabha by 14 votes.
In the house, the opposition-backed motion got 109 votes and the government 123 votes. One member, cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, was away playing a match against England in Kolkata. Minutes before the voting process began, the SP walked out of the house with its nine MPs, bailing out the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) -- as it had on Wednesday when the Lok Sabha voted on the issue. On Thursday, day one of the debate on the issue in the Rajya Sabha, Mayawati had said in the house that 15 MPs from her party would be voting with the government.
Both the BSP and SP support the government from outside. The government's win on getting 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail has long been a contentious issue, stalling almost the entire first two weeks of the winter session of parliament. With this, global names like Carrefour, Tesco and Wal-Mart will set up stores in India.
Addressing the house during the debate, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma hit back at the opposition and said the government had been "talking to everyone, farmers, traders, consumers, states". The government also held inter ministerial consultations on the issue, heard the recommendations and then took the decision, he said.
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