New Delhi: The contentious issue of allowing FDI in retail was formally put on the backburner on Wednesday when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced in Lok Sabha that the decision was being put on hold.
“The decision to permit 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail trade is suspended till a consensus is developed through consultations among various stakeholders,” Mukherjee, the Leader of the House, announced.
At an all-party meeting held earlier this morning, the Opposition – which had been adamant on a rollback of the retail FDI decision – had agreed to the government’s offer of putting the decision on hold.
Both the government and the Opposition agreed at the meeting that Parliament should be allowed to function and not held hostage to the logjam over the retail FDI issue.
At the meeting, Mukherjee had told Opposition leaders that the government was suspending the Cabinet decision on allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 per cent FDI in single brand retail till it talks to all stakeholders and reaches a consensus on the issue.
Responding to the clarification sought by Opposition parties during the all-party meet, Mukherjee informed Lok Sabha that the stakeholders include chief ministers of states and political parties.
“Without chief ministers this (the decision) can never be implemented,” the minister said, while appealing to all political parties to let Parliament function now as only 10 working days were left in the crucial Winter Session.
A similar statement was made by Commerce Minister Anand Sharma in Rajya Sabha.
Post the formal announcement, both Houses are conducting routine business now. This is the first time that any activity is taking place in Parliament in the current Winter Session.
Commenting on the agreement reached at the all-party meet, the CPI said that this is a "virtual rollback" of the FDI decision.
Opposition parties had earlier been pressing the government on a complete rollback of the decision.
The government had over the last few days reached out to its key ally Trinamool Congress and the opposition on the issue.
The BJP had on Tuesday sharpened its attack on the government with its leader Arun Jaitley questioning "silence" of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party general secretary Rahul Gandhi on the FDI issue.
"The government decided to allow FDI in retail November 25. Till now, I did not get the opportunity to know the views of the party president (Sonia Gandhi), or general secretary (Rahul Gandhi), whom they consider leader of future," Jaitley said at a rally here.
Nearly half of the Winter Session has been lost due to protests and slogan-shouting by opposition members over various issues, mainly FDI in retail.