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India's government wins second reform vote

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Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha (Lower House ) and Bhartiya Janata Party Leader Sushma Swaraj (L) addresses the media as colleague Ravi Shakar Prasad (R) looks on at Parliament House during the winter session in New Delhi on Dec 5, 2012. - AFP Photo
Leader of Opposition of Lok Sabha (Lower House ) and Bhartiya Janata Party Leader Sushma Swaraj (L) addresses the media as colleague Ravi Shakar Prasad (R) looks on at Parliament House during the winter session in New Delhi on Dec 5, 2012. - AFP Photo

NEW DELHI: India's minority government survived a final vote in parliament on Friday when lawmakers backed its controversial move to allow in foreign supermarkets, giving a boost to its reform agenda.

After four days of debate, lawmakers in the nominated upper house gave their support to the government and kicked out an opposition motion against the decision to open up the retail sector to foreign firms such as Walmart.

The US giant aims to be one of the first to set up foreign-owned megastores in India, which opposition parties warn could drive the country's millions of mom-and-pop stores out of business.

The vote in Rajya Sabha saw the opposition motion defeated by a margin of 14 votes, handing the Congress-led government a victory of 123 votes against 109 in its second test of parliamentary strength in three days.

“The motion is negative,” announced Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari, who serves as speaker in the upper house.

On Wednesday, the motion was routed by a margin of 35 in the lower house where the government gained 253 votes against 218. This was the first major vote faced by the coalition since it lost its majority in September.

A loss for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would not have reversed the policy, but would have dealt the shaky government an embarrassing blow and slowed efforts to push through other investor-friendly and pro-market reform measures.

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