Parliament adjourned for day amid deadlock over FDI

New Delhi : The parliament logjam continued for the sixth day of the 21-day winter session Tuesday after an all-party meeting to defuse the crisis ended without any consensus over the government’s decision to allow foreign equity in the retail sector.

Both houses of parliament were adjourned for the day after they resumed sitting Tuesday amid protests over the foreign direct investment (FDI) in the retail sector.

The logjam continued even after the government convened a meeting of leaders of political parties to convince them over the cabinet decision approving 51 percent FDI in multi-brand retail and 100 percent in single brand retail.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee chaired the meeting attended by opposition parties like the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left, AIADMK, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Samajwadi Party as well as the Congress and its allies like the Trinamool Congress and DMK in the United Progressive Alliance.

But the meeting failed to break the deadlock, with both sides unrelenting on their stands. The opponents of the FDI in retail say the move will create unemployment and hurt small traders and farmers in India.

Sources in the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress told IANS that the party made it clear to the government it wanted a reversal of the decision. “We have categorically said ‘no’ to FDI. But we won’t withdraw our support (to the government),” a Trinamool leader said.

The Trinamool leader said the party won’t buy the government argument that 30 percent mandatory procurement from small and medium enterprises would be reserved for Indians only. “This is against WTO rules. Whom is the government fooling?” said the leader.

The opposition leaders said they would accept nothing less than a complete rollback of the FDI decision.

“We have conveyed our opinion to the government,” Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) leader Sitaram Yechury said, adding the opposition has put forward its points to the government on the decision itself and the way it was taken.

“The question of rollback, suspension or putting it on hold is for the government to decide,” Yechury told reporters.

He said Mukherjee told the meeting that since the decision was taken by the cabinet, “we will require time to” decide on it now.

The CPI-M leader said the opposition wanted the government to reverse the decision because “the sense of the house is against the FDI in retail”.

Speaking to reporters after the all-party meeting, BSP leader Satish Chandra Mishra said Mukherjee sought time to convey the feelings of the opposition members on the issue to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and get a government response.

As the meeting concluded without any consensus, opposition continued to disrupt the functioning of parliament, protesting members gathering near the presiding officers’ podiums and shouting slogans.

Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari and Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar adjourned the houses first till noon, and later for the day.

Yechury said the opposition “does not want ugly scenes” in the houses.

“We want the house to run. If the government says they will consider opposition views on this, let them say so. But we won’t allow the house to function till the government takes its decision on FDI.”

Parliament has failed to transact any business in the first six days of the winter session that is scheduled to debate key laws including anti-graft Lokpal bill.

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