FDI in retail: Allies speak in contradicting terms

UPA government may have taken politically-risky decisions on FDI and diesel prices, but its allies and supporting parties gave no indication of withdrawing their support.

New Delhi: UPA government may have taken politically-risky decisions on FDI and diesel prices, but its allies and supporting parties on Saturday gave no indication of withdrawing their support notwithstanding their expressions of strong opposition to the reforms.

Key UPA allies--Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party--expressed strong opposition to the controversial decisions to hike diesel price, cap on supply of subsidised LPG and FDI in multi-brand retail and asked it to roll them back.

While leaders of all the three parties, which account for 62 Lok Sabha members, referred to their support to the Congress-led government, they made ambivalent remarks on whether they would really bite the bullet by withdrawing the backing.

The UPA coalition enjoys the support of over 310 MPs in the Lok Sabha where 273 constitutes a simple majority in a House of 545.

BSP supremo Mayawati, whose party has 21 MPs and provides outside support to the government, spoke of taking a decison on continuing support after a meeting of the National Executive on or after Oct 9.

However, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, whose Trinamool Congress with 19 MPs is the second largest constituent in the UPA after the Congress, spoke in contradicting terms.

She threatened to take "hard" decisions at the end of a 72-hour deadline if the controversial decisions were not not withdrawn while adding in the same vein her party was not not in favour of quitting the government.

"We have called a party meeting on Tuesday to discuss these issues. If the Centre does not roll back the hike in diesel price and withdraw decisions on FDI in multi-brand retail and LPG, we will take decisions, however, hard they may be. I hope the people will not misunderstand," Banerjee told a rally in Kolkata.

She said her party would not like to topple the UPA government. "We are not in favour of quitting the government.

We are always in favour of not breaking the alliance. But we are committed to the people."

Insisting on the withdrawal of the diesel price hike,
Banerjee demanded supply of 24 subsidised LPG cylinders a year.

Referring to the Centre`s decision to leave it to the states to allow setting up of multi-brand stores, Banerjee said "Is this possible? I have never heard of it."

In Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and SP leader Akhilesh Yadav opposed FDI in retail sector and said his government would not allow its implementation in the state.

Asked whether SP was planning to withdraw its outside support to the UPA government on the issue of hike in diesel price and FDI, he said any such decision rests with the party`s national leadership.

"Only the National President will decide how the support will continue. It has been asked several times but Samajwadi Party will always provide support to counter communal powers in the country," he said.

Mayawati, whose party BSP has 20 MPs, termed the Centre`s decisions as "anti-people" and said she will take a call on continuing support to UPA after a rally on October 9.

She said BSP will hold a `Maha Sankalp rally" on October 9 at Ramabai Ambedkar rally ground in Lucknow on the occasion of BSP founder Kanshiram`s death anniversary.

"On the same day or the next day an executive meeting will be called in which it will be decided whether we will continue support to the UPA government," Mayawati said.


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