FDI in retail: No consensus at all-party meet

All party meet
Consensus eluded an all-party meeting called on FDI issue today even as Samajwadi Party and BSP provided comfort to the government by not insisting on voting and Trinamool Congress sprang a surprise by speaking in a similar tone.

However, UPA ally DMK kept the suspense over its position on voting while conveying its concerns over allowing 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail.

Opposition parties, including NDA, AIADMK, BJD, Left parties, TDP and JD(S) insisted on a discussion under rules entailing voting, making it clear that trouble will continue in Parliament which failed to transact any business for the third straight day today over the issue.

"There will be no compromise on (discussion under Rule) 184 (which entails voting)," said Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj after the two-and-a-half hour-long meeting.

Asked if the BJP would not allow Parliament to function, she replied, "no compromise at all... When I said no compromise, it means something."

Highlighting the fact that there was no meeting ground between the government and opposition over voting issue, Shiv Sena leader Anant Geete said, "There was a discussion but no decision."

The government got comfort as its outside supporters SP and BSP made it clear that they would be willing for discussion under any rule. They did not press for voting and left the decision to the Presiding Officers of both the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha.

Trinamool Congress, which only last week moved a No-Confidence Motion over the FDI issue, sprang a surprise as it also did not insist on voting and said the Chair should decide the rule under which discussion could take place. "When our no-confidence motion was refused, now let the Speaker decide under which section discussion can take place," Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay told reporters after the meeting chaired by Leader of the Lok Sabha Sushil Kumar Shinde.

"Opposition is moving with begging bowl in hand for Rule 184," he said.

Insisting that Trinamool is "totally against" introduction of FDI in retail and capping of subsidised LPG cylinders at six per year, Bandopadhyay said, "Let the Opposition bring another no confidence motion, we will support them. We had given them the golden opportunity to no-confidence motion and not just (rule) 184 or 193."

Rule 184 entails voting while Rule 193 does not.

At the meeting, DMK leader T R Baalu conveyed his party's concerns over allowing 51 per cent FDI in retail. But he remained vague on whether or not his party would want voting on the issue.

AIADMK insisted on voting as did JD(U), BJD and some other parties.

Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma justified the decision by citing the difficult economic situation.

Sharma sought to reject the Opposition charge that the FDI decision was taken in a haste and without proper consultations. He said the government had discussed the issue with all stake-holders before the decision.

The government had taken the decision to allow 51 per cent FDI in multi-brand retail in November last year but put it on hold following strong objections from parties, including the then UPA constituent Trinamool Congress. The hold was removed in September this year.

BJP attacks govt, SP and BSP

The BJP today hit out at the government for not agreeing to voting in Parliament on FDI in retail issue and made a veiled attack on SP and BSP for not pressing for voting on it alleging they are speaking differently outside and inside Parliament.

BJP also charged Congress and its allies with obstructing Parliament and said it wants Parliament to function and is not responsible for the current situation.

Terming the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail as a policy decision which affects on the lives of millions in important sectors of agriculture and retail trade, BJP said it wants a discussion on it in Parliament and voting.

"BJP wants this serious issue be discussed in Parliament and hold voting. Some political parties speak differently outside and inside Parliament. We should think in nation's interest. It is a policy matter. It concerns millions in agriculture and retail trade," BJP leader M Venkaiah Naidu said.

"When you are reduced to a minority, your allies are not agreeing, then how can you bring FDI in retail sector? Mr Prime Minister, FDI in retail is not in the interest of the country. It is against the country's interest," Naidu said.

Accusing the government of going back on its assurances given in Parliament on December 7, 2011 on FDI, he said "what happened to the assurances? It is a contempt of Parliament. It is a betrayal of Parliament. You have brought in FDI through back-door."

Charging the ruling parties with not allowing Parliament to function, Naidu said "people should see who is obstructing the functioning of the House. It is the ruling party and its allies which are obstructing Parliament. We are not responsible for the present situation," he said.

He said when Congress was in opposition during NDA rule, it had opposed the move in Parliament through its leader Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, terming it as 'anti-national'.

"If it was anti-national at that time, how can it be pro-national now," he said, adding "why the change of stand? Why this U-turn?"

Referring to Congress' opposition to FDI during NDA rule, Naidu said "if it was destroying employment then, how can it create employment now"?

BJP alleged Congress and its allies had no respect for Parliamwent and they were bent on bringing it through the "back-door".

Naidu said the government is not favourably inclined to the demand of the opposition to have a discussion in Parliament followed by voting.

He said the opposition party was very clear on the issue as holding a discussion with voting was in the interest of the nation. "We will insist in Parliament on this," he said.

He said while Congress' former ally Trinamool Congress is opposed to the move and quit UPA on it, its other ally DMK has also opposed the moved by participating in a Bharat Bandh.

He said supporters BSP and SP had also voiced their opposition to FDI.

Most parties ready to accept Speaker's decision: Congress

Sticking to its stand on discussion on FDI in retail without a vote, Congress today said most political parties were ready to accept the decision of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on the issue.

"One heartening outcome of the all-party meeting was that most political parties were ready to accept the decision of the Speaker on the rule under which the discussion on FDI should take place," Congress spokesman Sandeep Dikshit said.

He said BJP and its allies and also Left parties were still insisting on having a discussion on FDI under Rule 184, which entails voting.

"If any party wants to score political points by disregarding rules of Parliamentary procedure, then I would humbly request them to follow the Parliamentary traditions," Dikshit said.

He contended that only those matter that were in the purview of Parliament were discussed under Rule 184 and followed by a vote and all other issues were discussed under Rule 193.

To questions on whether the Congress was apprehensive about a vote on the FDI issue, Dikshit said "neither are we afraid nor do we face any risk. We firmly believe that FDI is good for the people."

He admitted that the DMK had some reservations on multi- brand retail but the same would be addressed in the meeting of the UPA constituents.

"One thing is clear that 300-325 MPs have favoured a discussion but left it to the Speaker to decide under which rule the discussion has to be held," Dikshit said.

Dikshit said if principles of democracy were applied, a majority was keen to leave it to the Speaker the decision on the rule under which the discussion has to take place.

Besides the UPA constituents, Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party have favoured a discussion but wanted the Speaker to decide on the rules, he said.

"It will be our endeavour to arrive at a consensus. Besides FDI, many other issues need to be discussed in Parliament. We have already lost lot of time... Many bills have to be discussed and we are not in favour of losing more time," he said.

Dikshit said he would appeal to the BJP to allow the Speaker to decide on the discussion on FDI.

The Congress also sought to fish in troubled waters by accusing the BJP of "double standards" while taking disciplinary action against its party MPs.

"BJP is known for double standards. It has been behaving in this manner for years," he said to questions on BJP suspending veteran MP Ram Jethmalani while taking no action against Shatrughan Sinha, who has also spoken against the BJP leadership.

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