PM defies calls for rollback of FDI in retail sector
Fighting-off demands for a U-turn on allowing foreign investment in supermarkets, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said on Tuesday that the policy would bring jobs and technology to farmers.
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Even as the Prime Minister put up a defence of the decision, it came under attack from a Congress MP who said that it would hurt the poor, traders, hawkers and farmers and demanded a rethink on it.
With a couple of MPs openly raising the banner against the FDI decision, the Congress party has called its MPs for a meeting tomorrow in which Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will seek to allay apprehensions on the issue.
Parliament remaining paralysed for the sixth straight day, government made an attempt to break the logjam but both sides remained adamant leading to disruption of both the Houses.
There were no signs of a thaw with Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj declaring that the demand for a discussion through an adjournment motion which entails voting is "non-negotiable".
At the morning meeting, Leader of the Lok Sabha and Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told the opposition leaders since the FDI decision was taken by the cabinet, he has to get back to the Prime Minister before he can say anything.
In the evening, the Prime Minister strongly justified the decision saying it was "not taken in any haste, but after careful consideration".
It is our firm conviction that the decision will benefit the country, farmers and consumers, he said addressing a Youth Congress Convention.
Congress President Sonia Gandhi, who also spoke at the Convention, did not refer to the FDI controversy.
At the all party meeting in the morning, opposition parties, led by BJP and the Left, stuck to their stand and demanded rollback of the Cabinet decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.
Even UPA allies TMC and DMK, along with SP and BSP, which lend outside support to government, demanded that the decision should be revoked.
"We have demanded rollback of the decision. We have been demanding that a meeting of UPA partners should be held every three months. Such matters should be discussed with UPA partners," Trinamool leader Sudip Bandhopadhyaya said after the meeting.
At the AICC briefing, party spokesman Abhishek Singhvi however, downplayed the opposition to the government's move by the two UPA constituents saying there is a difference between disagreement and disruption and that Congress has no problem with that.
He accused the opposition of being "irresponsible" and "obstinate" and converting Parliament into an "agitation field".
"We are open to discussion but not to accepting the conditions as to under what rule it should be discussed. It is for the Chair of both the Houses to decide", he said.
Meanwhile, a report from Thiruvananthapuram said thousands of shop owners in Kerala today downed shutters in protest against the Centre's decision.
The dawn-to-dusk strike call was given by the Kerala Vyapari Vyavasayi Ekopanasamiti and Vyapari Vyavasayi Samiti, leading retailers' outfits in the state.
Reports from across the state said the response to the protest call was total with small, medium and wholesale outlets remaining closed.