Govt, Opposition on war path over FDI

The war over allowing FDI in retail escalated with the opposition BJP squarely rejected the government`s plea for toning down its adjournment motion.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The war over allowing FDI in multi-brand retail escalated on Wednesday with the opposition BJP squarely rejected the government`s plea for toning down its adjournment motion.

In another bid to end the deadlock in parliament, Mukherjee called Advani in the evening, but failed to make any headway.

"Advani told Mukherjee that the wording of the adjournment motion moved by BJP on FDI in retail was non-negotiable. He said the suggestion given by the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj at the all-party meeting was the only way out," BJP sources maintained.

Meanwhile, Congress declared that the government has the numbers in the Parliament to face any adjournment motion, indicating that the allies Trinamool Congress and DMK will be brought on board.

"We have the numbers. If we agreed to accept an adjournment motion on black money, we would not have done it without counting our flock," party spokesperson Manish Tewari told reporters.

For the seventh straight day, both the Houses of Parliament remained paralysed without transacting any business with the entire opposition demanding rollback of the controversial decision.
The Congress top brass met twice in the day at the Prime Minister`s residence and discussed the strategy to face the Opposition onslaught in the Parliament.

The Congress core committee met here to chalk out the future strategy on the issue.

The one and half hour-long meeting held at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s residence was attended by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, Home Minister P Chidambaram, Defence Minister AK Antony and Congress chief’s political secretary Ahmed Patel.
While the meeting was held to formulate a strategy as the government has come under fire from all quarters, including from within, on the issue, sources said the UPA appears in no mood to rollback the decision of allowing 51% foreign direct investment in retail sector.

Reports also said that the PM today spoke to key allies who are opposed to the Cabinet decision on FDI. These allies include Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress and the DMK.

The government is first trying to mollify its allies and bring them onboard as far as the decision on FDI is concerned, before it makes any concessions to the Opposition which has stalled Parliament on the issue.

The core group met hours after Sonia Gandhi this morning chaired a meeting of Congress’ parliamentary party to discuss the issue. That meeting was attended by all top Congress leaders and its ministers in the UPA government.

At the meeting, Pranab Mukherjee apprised Congress MPs of the government’s stand on the issue. He said that FDI in retail will help bring down inflation.

Commerce Minister Anand Sharma is set to brief Congress MPs on the issue tomorrow.

Sonia is reportedly upset over the continuing deadlock over the retail FDI issue, which has been disrupting the proceedings inside Parliament.

With the Prime Minister ruling out a roll back and the Opposition not willing to lower its stand the issue, the Congress finds itself in a fix and is now seeking the bipartisan support of rival parties and its key allies.

A section of Congress leaders including KPCC chief Ramesh Chennithala and MP Sanjay Singh are firmly opposed to allowing FDI in the retail sector as they term it as anti-farmer move, anti-people move.

In a bid to end the deadlock, the government is reportedly mulling to suspend the decision for some time and reduce the extent to which foreign direct investment should be allowed in the retail sector to appease the opposition, which is showing a rare unity on the issue.

Today’s parleys also hold significance as PM Singh yesterday defended the government’s decision to open the retail sector and ruled out a roll back in this regard.

Addressing the national convention of the Congress party’s youth wing, the Prime Minister said that it will create employment opportunities and benefit the country’s economy in the long run.

Singh said, “The present deadlock over the government’s decision to allow FDI in the retail sector is hampering important business in Parliament. We have not taken this decision in haste. It is, in fact, a well calculated decision, which will boost productivity and employment.”

Defending the Cabinet’s decision, Singh said, “It will certainly benefit the economy in the long run.”

Allaying fears that the entry of corporate retail giants will destroy the domestic retail market, the Prime Minister said, “Small retailers need not worry about the entry of global corporate big-wigs since we have also imposed certain safeguards to protect the interest of small retailers at home.”

“After a careful analysis of the retail sector in foreign markets, we are hopeful that both small and big retailers will flourish and prosper at the same time if FDI is allowed in this sector, which will bring latest technology and improve the agriculture sector.”

An all-party meeting convened yesterday had ended inconclusively with both the government and the Opposition failing to reach a consensus over the issue.

During the meeting, the Opposition demanded an immediate rollback of the government’s decision on allowing 51% FDI in retail sector and threatened to disrupt the proceedings inside Parliament till the government gives an assurance in this regard.

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