M A I N   N E W S

After meeting PM, allies soften stand on adjournment motion 
Anita Katyal
Our Political Correspondent

New Delhi, December 1
Even as a united Opposition stood firm on its demand to move an adjournment motion to press for the withdrawal of the government’s decision allowing foreign investment in multi-brand retail trade, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh personally reached out to the UPA allies for support.

While urging allies to vote with the government on this issue at a meeting with UPA partners today, the PM also made it clear that it will be difficult for the government to backtrack on its decision. While explaining the economic compulsions for going ahead with this policy, the PM also detailed the benefits of opening up the country’s retail trade.

It became necessary for the PM to persuade the allies as some UPA constituents like the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the DMK have joined the Opposition ranks in seeking a rollback of the government’s FDI policy. Unsure of its numbers, the government is unable to accept the opposition’s challenge for a debate on its FDI policy under an adjournment motion which entails voting.

“Before taking the next step, we have to be sure of the support of our allies,” said a senior Congress leader.

While DMK’s Rajya Sabha MP Tiruchi Siva said that despite its reservations on the FDI policy, his party will not vote against the government, TMC chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee continues to hold out. DMK leader TR Baalu, who attended this morning’s meeting, said his party would, however, like the government to hold its decision in abeyance and create public awareness in its favour before going ahead with its implementation. The DMK, he said, also favours a discussion in Parliament on this issue.

After opposing the policy initially, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi appeared to have softened his stand when he told media persons that his party would decide on the vote when the adjournment motion comes up in Parliament.

However, TMC leader Sudeep Bandhopadhyay, who attended the PM’s meeting, pressed for withdrawal of the policy while maintaining that his party did not want to destabilise the government. The TMC wants a rollback so that it not forced to vote against the government, he said. “We don’t want the government to fall,” Bandhopadhya told reporters after the meeting but parried questions on how they would ‘vote in an adjournment motion. There is a proposal that UPA partners will vote with the government but will also clarify that they will not implement the FDI policy in their respective states. Another proposal is that the TMC abstain from voting. This may not be acceptable as an absention by a member of the ruling coalition will severely dent the government’s credibility.

As the the government remained unsuccessful in resolving the deadlock in Parliament, both Houses were adjourned for the eighth consecutive day by a determined and united opposition. With the Parliament set for a four-day break, government’s crisis managers maintain they have sufficient time till December 7 to work out their differences with their allies.

Without their allies, the government finds itself well short of the half-way mark of 272 in the Lok Sabha. As of now, it has the support of 219 members, which includes 207 Congress members, NCP nine and National Conference three as they are supporting the FDI policy. The 18-member DMK contingent may not vote against the government but the TMC’s 18 MPs are unlikley to support the government. The UPA is also eyeing smaller parties like Ajit Singh’s RLD, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s RJD and other smaller parties. At best, it can muster the support of 263 members.

The buffer provided by the 43 members of the SP and the BSP, which lend outside support to the government, is proving to be critical. It is this erosion in the UPA numbers which has spurred the NDA and Left parties to press ahead with its demand for a vote.

The way ahead

Breather for the government until December 7

UPA allies will vote with the government but declare that they will not implement the policy

BSP and SP votes critical for the UPA

BJP-backed protests took place across the country on Thursday against allowing FDI in retail. — PTI









Shops down shutters across country

New Delhi, December 1
Protests over the entry of global retail chains such as Wal-Mart and Carrefour saw tens of thousands of shops down shutters across the country, amid continued political stalemate, even as shoppers did not necessarily share the concerns.

The protest was called by the Confederation of All India Trade Associations, backed by Opposition parties, demanding the withdrawal of a cabinet decision last week to permit foreign equity in retail.

"It has been a successful bandh (closure). It demonstrates the anger and resentment of traders on the crucial issue of permitting foreign equity in retail trade sector," said Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the confederation, over the phone in New Delhi.

The bandh evoked a partial response in Punjab and markets in Chandigarh and Haryana largely remained open. However, according to reports from the national capital, Mumbai and other cities across the country, many markets bore a deserted look, as small shops, save pharmacies and some grocery stores, remained closed since morning. Some bigger shops though were open.

Though partial in some states like Gujarat and Bihar, the shutdown was effective Jammu to Thiruvananthpuram and Ahmedabad to Agartala. Bullion and wholesale commodity markets in some states, notably Delhi and some parts of Maharashtra, also remained closed. "Around five crore (50 million) traders belonging to 10,000 associations of traders are participating in the bandh. — Agencies


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