For peace in parliament, FDI policy ‘suspended’ for now

New Delhi : The deadlock in parliament over the government’s decision to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail ended Wednesday after an all-party meeting passed a resolution to suspend the move till a consensus was reached.

Both houses of parliament functioned normally and took the crucial Question Hour for the first time since the winter session began Nov 22.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who chaired the meeting made a brief statement in the Lok Sabha and read out the resolution passed in the all-party meeting.

“The decision to permit 51 percent FDI in retail trade is suspended till a consensus is developed through consultation among various stakeholders,” a one-paragraph resolution passed in the meeting said.

Mukherjee said he was “glad” that all political parties have agreed. He said as per the government’s latest formula, they would now consult all stakeholders, including the chief ministers of all states and political parties, before going ahead with the policy.

“The government will take a final decision through consultation. Let the houses conduct normal business.”

Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) welcomed the decision and said it was not the defeat of the government “but it strengthened democracy”.

She complimented the finance minster and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was present in the house. “I thank the finance minister and the prime minister,” Sushma Swaraj said.

Earlier, leaders of political parties emerging out of the meeting said they have agreed on the government’s formula to suspend foreign investment in retail.

The issue had led to a continuous logjam in parliament as both houses were not been able to run since the winter session began. There were other issues, including rising prices, Telangana and corruption, that blocked parliament for the first nine days of the session.

Calling it “peoples’ victory”, the Communist Party of India (CPI) said the government has virtually revoked the FDI decision.

“It is a virtual rollback. I compliment the government for taking a belated decision. It has been retreated,” CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta told reporters.

He said the government would consult on the issue and when “they will come to us, we will oppose it again. There will be no consensus and it won’t be implemented,” Dasgupta told IANS.

He said both the houses will function normally now.

Trinamool Congress, a bitter critic of the policy and a ruling Congress ally in the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), said every political party, “including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)”, agreed to let parliament function and put the FDI decision on hold.

“It has been accepted. Whatever you may want to call it, holdback or rollback, it is not being implemented,” Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandhopadhyay told IANS after the meeting.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla dismissed the notion that the government has bowed before the opposition and its own allies, the Trinamool Congress and the DMK.

“There is no question of bowing down. This is democracy. We always wanted to have a discussion. They have agreed on our formula. The meeting went off very well. Parliament will function now,” Shukla told reporters.

Allowing FDI in retail was the biggest reform policy of the Manmohan Singh government since it regained power in 2009 and putting it on hold is being seen as an embarrassment for the UPA.

However, the resumption of parliament is good news for the government. It has listed some key legislations, including the anti-graft Lokpal bill, to be passed in the session.

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