PM’s dinner fails to win BJP nod on retail FDI

FP

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's attempt to break the ice with the BJP over dinner Thursday appeared to have fallen well short of a breakthrough with senior leaders of the main opposition party sticking to their stand against FDI in multi-brand retail.

The failure of Singh's dinner diplomacy came at the end of a day which saw the winter session of Parliament getting off to a noisy start with political parties paralysing proceedings over a range of issues. The only positive note for the government seemed to be the inability of the Trinamool Congress to gather enough MPs to move its no-confidence motion over the FDI controversy.

Singh's dinner, which was originally set for November 17 and postponed after the death of Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray, was attended by L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley from the BJP and Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath.

At the dinner, the BJP demanded a discussion on FDI in retail in Parliament under a rule that entails voting. The government, it is learnt, was keen to engage the BJP on other reform measures such as raising the FDI cap in insurance and allowing FDI in pension funds. It also wanted to seek the BJP's support for the constitutional amendment needed for the land boundary pact with Bangladesh.

The BJP, however, had indicated it would not relent on its demand for voting on FDI in retail, with Jaitley attacking the government earlier in the day.

"This is the first time the government is saying that voting is against democracy. The example given by government is against democracy," Jaitley had earlier said addressing a seminar on FDI in retail.

"We are not getting into this trap again," Jaitley said, rejecting suggestions to hold a discussion on FDI in retail under a rule that does not entail voting. The BJP's uncompromising stance, coupled with the support of Left parties, is expected to cramp the government which wants to push its legislative agenda in the session.

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