FDI: Government firm, tries to woo allies

New Delhi : Staving off opposition to allowing foreign equity in retail, the government Friday said farmers and consumers will be the casualties if the policy reform is prevented for narrow political gain and went about wooing allies for strong backing on the issue.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called up West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to ask her Trinamool Congress party, which has 18 MPs, to back down on its criticism. However, Banerjee, told him that while she did not want the government to fall – which can be read as her support in case of voting on the adjournment motion – her party could not support it on the FDI issue.

The BJP has asked for an adjournment motion in parliament with voting on the FDI issue. Friday was the ninth day of parliament being adjourned without either house transacting any business.

“I told him that we do not intend the government to fall, but supporting it on the FDI issue was a problem for us,” Banerjee said in Dankuni in West Bengal, adding that she respected the prime minister’s request, but “it is our party’s decision” not to support the FDI move.

“We have also told them to reconsider the decision and withdraw it… I have supported the government on earlier occasions but this is a very sensitive issue and I am committed to stand by the people,” Banerjee said.

Apart from Trinamool Congress, former Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi’s DMK too is opposed to the move.

In the morning, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee expressed the government’s resolve not to buckle under pressure when he told the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit here that global experience showed organised retail, with integrated supply chains, cuts post-harvest wastage and gets remunerative returns to farmers and competitive prices to the consumer.

He said farmers and consumers will be the casualties if foreign equity in retail trade is prevented and hoped to convince all stakeholders on the benefits of the new policy.

“I do hope ultimately we will be able to persuade all those who are opposing it,” he said, adding that the authority of the states was not being undermined by the centre deciding on foreign equity in retail.

“At the same time, our request is you can exercise your authority within the territorial limits. But don’t stand in the way of others who want to implement it,” Mukherjee added.

In response to Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s remarks to a TV channel that BJP-ruled Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh supported the FDI in retail before a parliamentary panel, former Himachal Chief Minister and BJP leader Shanta Kumar accused the government of deciding on a matter that was still pending before a parliamentary standing committee.

Shanta Kumar said the committee on commerce headed by him had earlier decided against FDI in retail.

“It is being said that two of our states have supported the government stand. That is wrong. In 2009, the standing committee on commerce (headed by BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi) gave a report on foreign and domestic investment in retail sector. It was unanimous that foreign investment should not be allowed in retail at all,” he said.

“Last year, when the committee was re-constituted, I was made the chairman,” he said, adding: “We are still considering the action taken report and it is not complete.”

He went on to oppose allowing even Indian corporates in the retail sector.
IANS

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