Retail FDI: Govt fails to end deadlock



Retail FDI: Govt fails to end deadlock Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: An all-party meeting convened by the Centre to end the deadlock over allowing 51% FDI in multi-brand retail ended inconclusively on Tuesday with both the government and the opposition failing to reach a consensus over the issue.

Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who chaired the meeting, will now brief Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the meeting and the concerns expressed by Opposition leaders.

CPM's Sitaram Yechury said Pranab told the meeting that the decision was taken by the Union Cabinet and only it could rethink on it.

The meeting was attended by top leaders including Sushma Swaraj, LK Advani (BJP), Sharad Pawar (NCP), Sandeep Bandhopadhyay (TMC), Jayant Chowdhary (RLD), Anant Geete, Manohar Joshi (Shiv Sena), Pawan Kumar Bansal, Narayansami, Anand Sharma (Congress), Nageshwar Rao (TDP), Satish Mishra (BSP), Thambidurai, Maitran (AIADMK) and T Shiva (DMK).

Demanding an immediate roll back of the government’s decision, Opposition leaders threatened to disrupt the proceedings inside Parliament till the government gives an assurance in this regard.

Today’s meeting held significance as the government was seeking bi-partisan support from Opposition and key allies in a bid to reach consensus over allowing FDI in the retail sector.

The government is finding itself in a tight corner on the issue of FDI in retail with allies Trinamool Congress and DMK joining the Opposition in demanding withdrawal of the decision that led to Parliament’s adjournment on Monday.

DMK, which joined the Trinamool Congress in opposing the decision, described as "dangerous" allowing FDI in retail trade alleging it will affect lakhs of small traders as well as poor and middle class consumers.

The two allies with 18 MPs each constitute the largest groups after Congress, which heads the UPA coalition, and have demanded a roll back of the decision immediately.

With the Opposition displaying rare unity against the decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment in multi-brand retail, the Prime Minister yesterday met Congress president Sonia Gandhi and held parleys with senior ministers Pranab Mukherjee, P Chidambaram, A K Antony and Commerce Minister Anand Sharma in the evening.

There is also speculation that the government might at least put on hold the FDI decision in the interest of functioning of Parliament.

But Parliamentary Affairs Minister P K Bansal said the government is convinced that the FDI decision was in the larger national interest and would benefit every section of society.

Today's meeting was convened as an effort to talk to the Opposition to ensure that Parliament, which has been paralysed for five days over various issues, resumes normal business.

On his part Commerce Minister Anand Sharma sought to reach out to Opposition parties by writing a letter to them and appealed to them to rise above "petty partisanship" on the issue.

The entire Opposition, barring BJP ally Akali Dal, put the blame on the government for Parliament's disruption saying they were not consulted on such a vital issue. The unity among the Opposition has also surprised the government.

Notices of adjournment motion on the issue were tabled by leaders of several parties in the Lok Sabha which are under the consideration of Speaker Meira Kumar. Similar notices were also tabled in the Rajya Sabha.

"Scrap the decision by the night. Parliament can function tomorrow," Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj said in a press conference yesterday.

JD(U) leader Sharad Yadav said the Congress took the FDI decision deliberately to sabotage Parliament at a time when it was scheduled to discuss crucial issues like price rise and black money.

Yadav, who is NDA convener, and BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said the question of allowing Parliament to function does not arise till government reverses the decision.

The Opposition has said that the decision would sound the death knell for millions of small traders and cause huge unemployment in the rural areas.

The FDI decision has also met with stiff resistance from Chief Ministers of non-Congress states like Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Orissa and those ruled by BJP.

West Bengal Chief Minister and TMC leader Mamata Banerjee has already said the decision would not be implemented in the state.

With PTI Input