Retail FDI: Mamata rebuffs PM’s call for support



Retail FDI: Mamata rebuffs PM’s call for support Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attempt to win over ally Trinamool Congress on government's decision to allow FDI in retail was on Friday rebuffed by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who bluntly told him her party cannot back the move.

However, Banerjee also made it clear that her party was not in favour of the UPA government being toppled even as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee asked the allies and Opposition not to stand in the way of other states implementing the policy.

The message of Banerjee, whose party Trinamool Congress is the second largest constituent of the UPA along with DMK having 18 MPs each, was made clear when Singh spoke to her and sought her party's support to the government's decision.

The Trinamool Congress chief told reporters in Dankuni in Hooghly district that the Prime Minister spoke to her on telephone and sought her party's support.

"I told him respectfully that we don't want the government to be toppled on this issue. This is a very sensitive issue. But at the same time, it is not possible for us to back FDI entry into retail sector. I am sorry," she said.

"Since you are requesting me, we can discuss this in the party. But our party's stand is clear," Banerjee said adding she urged the PM to reconsider the decision.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today seeking her support.

According to reports, Prime Minister Singh held a brief telephonic conversation with the Trinamool Congress chief and assured her of the benefits that the retail FDI move would accrue in future.

Singh called up the West Bengal Chief Minister amid reports of a widening rift between the two sides on the issue.

Singh’s attempt to drum up support over the FDI decision came shortly after Railway Minister and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi slammed Congress for not consulting the alliance partners and its myopic vision on issues of national importance.

Trivedi also made a direct attack on the Finance Minister by saying, “People with narrow thinking issue such statements.”

He was responding to an appeal made by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to the UPA allies asking them to respect the Centre’s decision on the retail FDI.

The Finance Minister made a fresh appeal while speaking at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit.

He said, “Farmers and consumers will be the casualties if foreign equity in retail trade is prevented for narrow political gain.”

Pranab also expressed optimism that the Congress leadership would be able to convince all stakeholders on the benefits of the new policy. "Yet, despite this recognition, often narrow political gains take precedence over early implementation of a policy framework, even when it is being done in a calibrated and sensitive manner," Mukherjee said, referring to opposition over foreign retailers.

"I do hope ultimately we will be able to persuade all those who are opposing it."

Opposition leaders like BJP’s Yashwant Sinha and Sitaram Yechury have also criticised Pranab for blaming the Opposition for the present deadlock.

Opposition parties have stalled functioning of Parliament since the cabinet, at a meeting presided over by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh last week, approved up to 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single brand format.

The issued again led to the adjournment of Parliament for the ninth day in a row without any business being transacted.

In a bid to end the deadlock, Prime Minister yesterday held talks with top leaders of UPA alliance partners and told them the move will largely benefit the economy, boost agri-sector and generate employment opportunities.

The Prime Minister also warned that his government risked losing people’s trust if the FDI decision is rolled back.

However, his meeting with the UPA alliance partners ended inconclusively with no consensus emerging on the vexed issue.

During the meeting, Trinamool Congress said that it will abstain from voting if a motion on FDI in retail comes in Parliament, while the DMK kept its cards close to its chest.